MINNEAPOLIS — Well, it wasn’t the perfect ending to Matt Mooney’s journey.
If that were the case, Texas Tech would have been dancing in the confetti at US Bank Stadium late Monday night at US Bank Stadium. Instead, it was Virginia, who pulled ahead late in overtime of the national championship game in an 85-77 win.
Mooney gave the Red Raiders their biggest lead in that overtime with back-to-back hoops as part of his 10-point night. It wasn’t quite enough for a championship, but either way, it brings an end to a long road for the Wauconda native.
“I can’t explain it, man. It’s been a heck of a journey,” said Mooney on Saturday, following Texas Tech’s win over Michigan State in the national semifinal — and he’s right.
After a standout career at Notre Dame Prep in Niles, the guard first went to the Air Force Academy where he remained for the 2014-2015 season. He then transferred after one season to South Dakota, sitting out the 2015-2016 season before taking the floor the next season.
Mooney started 68 games for the Coyotes in the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 season, scoring 1,271 points and helping South Dakota to 48 wins. After graduating, the guard decided to look elsewhere for a graduate year, eventually chose Texas Tech over Northwestern and Creighton last offseason.
“I love South Dakota. I love the people there, and I’m thankful for my experience at Air Force, too. It’s just been a journey,” said Mooney, but the best was yet to come.
He arrivee in Lubbock and started 38 games for the Red Raiders, who were under the direction of Chris Beard in his second season. Mooney averaged 11.3 points and 3.2 assists per game as Texas Tech went from 18-14 in 2017-2018 all the way to their first Final Four.
The guard had a big part in putting the Red Raiders in their first national championship game on Saturday, scoring 22 points in a victory over Michigan State. It tied his biggest output of the season (22 vs Texas on Jan. 12) and provided the most well-known moment of his college career.
“A lot of people have helped me get to this point, have helped me along the way. You know, this is — I’m living the dream right now,” said Mooney after the Michigan State win. “I’m so grateful I got another opportunity. I’m so grateful for this coaching staff believing in me, and these guys, my teammates believing in me, and welcoming me into this program.”
His point total dropped to 10 in the title game, but his five points in overtime gave Texas Tech their last lead of the season. Mooney didn’t get the national championship he might have hoped for, but the journey to get there was one to remember.