SAN DIEGO — Six Texas Tech players scored in double figures and the No. 3 Red Raiders decimated No. 14 Montana State 97-62 in the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament on Friday.
The Bobcats finish the season 27-8, the most wins in a single season for MSU since the 1928-1929 season. It was MSU's first appearance in the Big Dance since 1996.
The 35-point margin was the largest NCAA tournament win in Texas Tech school history. Terrence Shannon, Jr. and Bryson Williams each had 20 for the Red Raiders.
"Everything felt challenged," senior point guard Xavier Bishop said. "Felt like they take you out of your sets and things you want to run and they just don't have many weaknesses. They're well-coached, disciplined. They all know what they're doing and they're on the same page, but man, that's a great defensive team for sure."
Although an Abdul Mohamed bucket briefly gave MSU an early 2-0 lead, the Bobcats immediately looked overwhelmed on offense, getting two of their first five shot attempts blocked. Meanwhile, Texas Tech couldn't miss. The Red Raiders started 10-for-10 from the field and finished the first half shooting 72% from the field.
"I don't know if there's anybody in the tournament that's going to beat them if they shoot the ball that well because defensively they don't have any weakness. Even if you do make a decision and a quick pass and you have a shot, the space is closed up so fast. It's impressive on film."
Tech forced the Bobcats into 16 turnovers and scored 23 points off those takeaways.
"That's the best defensive team in the country for a reason," Sprinkle stated. "They make every catch hard. They contest not only every shot, they contest every pass, and they made it really difficult for us."
Bishop, who finished with 12 points to lead the Cats, scored a deep 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to send MSU into the break down 52-25. The Cats shot just 8-for-25 in the first half. In the second half, Tech continued the torrid pace.
Jubrile Belo, the Big Sky MVP and defensive player of the year, played with a leg injury and scored just five while adding three rebounds.
"He was very limited," Sprinkle said. "It's one of those - he didn't have his explosion, which is 90-percent of his game. Especially when you're playing against big guys - Williams and Obanor, Batcho - you have to have your explosion to get those shots off, especially as physical as they are."
To date, the most recent Big Sky Conference win in the NCAA men's tournament came in 2006, when No. 12 Montana upset No. 5 Nevada.
No. 3 Texas Tech advances to the second round and will play No. 11 Notre Dame on Sunday.