The world didn’t end for Michigan on Thursday night in Honda Center as it banged into the red-brick wall of the nation’s most defensive-efficient team, but the 2019 NCAA tournament did. The last defending Final Four team standing fell in the clangs and the clunk of a 63-44 loss it might as well go ahead and forget.
The Wolverines, after all, have company.
Texas Tech, a program that sprinkled five Sweet 16 berths here and there between 1961 and 2005 and usually just repaired to football, reached an Elite Eight that will become both its second ever and its second straight. Rather than challenging the respiration of Villanova as it did last year in the East Region final, the No. 3 seed Red Raiders (29-6) will try to out No. 1 seed Gonzaga (33-3) after having dispensed No. 2 seed Michigan (30-7).
Texas Tech will do so in a second year under Chris Beard, the 46-year-old Texan plucked from Little Rock in spring 2016 after he had coached one 30-5 season there, after UNLV had plucked him right after that and after Beard had changed his mind for Lubbock. His Red Raiders, who shared the Big 12 regular season title with Kansas State, have torn through this West Region with increasing resonance, beating Northern Kentucky, 72-57, then a much-fancied Buffalo team by a startling 78-58, then a Big Ten perennial contender by slightly less than that in the final score but somewhat more than that in effect.
When they found their way to Michigan, the No. 2 defensive team in the land, the Red Raiders found a team that had averaged 70.3 points and had not scored fewer than 54, with that total coming at Wisconsin, where it can happen to anyone. The Red Raiders and Wolverines grunted and grimaced through a first half that will not appear in the hall of fame except maybe in a defensive section frequented by geeks. It ended with Texas Tech ahead 24-16, with Michigan shooting 7 for 25 (28 percent), with Michigan shooting 0 for 9 from three-point range and with Michigan throwing in seven turnovers that might even have been understandable in the Texas Tech gulag.
The second half began, as it must, and Michigan ran an effective play, and Jon Teske drew a foul. He missed both free throws, the Wolverines’ score stuck on 16, and the curtain on this thing began an emphatic drop.
Texas Tech’s Matt Mooney scored from the back of the paint to make it 26-16, then Michigan’s eternal player, senior Charles Matthews, shot an air ball. Soon Davide Moretti, an Italian sophomore from Bologna, banged in a three-point shot from the left side for a 29-16 lead.
On a break with 17 minutes left, he rained in another from the right, and it got to 34-18. From the baseline with 13:40 left, after Michigan made the kind of 4-0 run that qualified as an achievement on this night against this team, Moretti made a jumper to get it to 38-22.
When it got to 48-27 after Kyler Edwards’s three-point shot and Jarrett Culver’s two layups and three-point play, there wasn’t much point anymore. When it reached 61-37 moments after that, Michigan Coach John Beilein sat frowning on the bench, his 12th Michigan season, two national title games in his past and a rare turn as routed utterly.
Michigan finished 1 for 19 from three-point range, with the one coming by reserve C.J. Baird with 22 seconds left, pushing the score from a meager 63-41 to a barely less meager 63-44.