Gonzaga guard Josh Perkins knifed into the lane and found projected lottery pick Rui Hachimura open on the corner for three. As Hachimura hoisted up the shot, 6-foot-10 Tariq Owens emerged from out of the paint, rising up to swat the three-point attempt and keep the ball in play, sealing the win for Texas Tech.
“Coming down court I knew they were going to be looking for him,” Owens said of Hachimura in the post-game presser. “When Josh Perkins drove I stepped in to help. I still knew where Rui was and I knew I had to get out there because he was shooting it.”
That’s the kind of impact the graduate transfer senior has had in Lubbock since making the move from St. John’s to Texas Techlast spring. After arriving as a transfer from the University of Tennessee after the 2014-15 season, Owens spent two seasons as the Big East’s leading shot blocker on a rebuilding St. John’s squad.
From 2016-18, Owens blocked 163 shots in 65 games, and currently has 264 and counting for his career. This year he is having his best college season, averaging 8.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.
“It just goes to show hard work pays off,” Owens said, reflecting on his lone year at Texas Tech. “This is my fifth year in college. Your hard work all of the time doesn't pay off right then and there.”
Appearing in 36 games for the 30-6 Red Raiders, Owens has started all but one contest. After taking down Gonzaga in the Elite Eight, coach Chris Beard extended a deal of gratitude to both Owens and fellow redshirt senior, Matt Mooney, who arrived at Texas Tech from South Dakota University last spring.
“It's like they've been here for their whole careers,” Beard said of the Big 12 All-Tournament honorees. “I've always loved our seniors, but I’ve never been more proud. They're really the story of Tech basketball this year.”
Prior to the start of the season, Owens voiced his desire to add defense and energy to the Texas Tech ball club.
“I love being a part of something where everybody is down to work and everybody has the same mindset,” he said. “It’s something that made me want to be a part of this.”
Owens and the Red Raiders will face Michigan State in the Final Four on Saturday at 8:50 p.m.