ANAHEIM, Calif. — The final buzzer sounded and Davide Moretti sprinted to find his family in the stands.
With his Texas Tech teammates celebrating on the court, a teary-eyed Moretti shared an embrace with his father, mother and younger brother, who surprised him after travelling from Italy earlier in the week.
Buona notte, indeed.
Moretti had a souvenir for his brother: a piece of the net he cut to commemorate the third-seeded Red Raiders’ 75-69 victory over top-seeded Gonzaga on Saturday night.
“It means a lot they can see what I’m living right here, especially my brother,” Moretti said, sitting in a quiet locker room that moments earlier had music pumping and players dancing. “I try to be the role model that he’s looking up to.”
The sophomore guard from Bologna scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half, propelling a team without any household names to the first Final Four appearance in school history.
“We don’t mind the underdog, chip-on-the-shoulder part of our story,” coach Chris Beard said, “but I think you disrespect our players a little bit. We got really good college players and I think we’re one of the best teams in the country this year.”
Moretti built his resume playing for Italy on junior teams in European and world championships. He chose the Red Raiders over Indiana, Connecticut and Utah.
As a teenager, he stayed up late into the night livestreaming the NCAA Tournament on his iPad, never imagining he would play in a Final Four one day.
The Red Raiders’ 30th victory ties a school record for wins in a season. Their stifling defence held the Bulldogs 19 points under their season average.
“Being Texas Tech, we are not one of the blue bloods,” reserve forward Malik Ondigo said. “We do not get five-star recruits every year so we have our own little chip on our shoulder.”
Moretti’s first basket of the second half drew the Red Raiders within one and launched a 9-2 run that put them up by four.
But Gonzaga came back and tied the game for the last time at 58-all.
With the Red Raiders clinging to a two-point lead, Moretti hit consecutive 3-pointers that gave them a 66-60 lead. On the first one, Moretti stole the ball and connected from long-range. On the next one, Big 12 player of the year Jarrett Culver found him.
“They fired the team up,” he said. “I’m really thankful because J.C. trust me, so I was ready for that. It was a big-time moment, it was a big-time shot.”
Moretti’s performance capped a huge week. He turned 21 on Monday and his offence helped the Red Raiders defeat Michigan 63-44 in the regional semifinals on Thursday. He hit his first five shots of the game against the Wolverines.
“It’s crazy, man,” he said. “I can’t believe we’re here after all the work we did during the season.”