Thursday, the Texas Tech basketball team pulled out an improbable win in its second game at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Down 15 points to Northern Iowa with just over 11 minutes left in the game, Grant McCasland’s team came back from the dead to secure an important non-conference win.
Pop Isaacs proved to be the hero. Hitting a running one-handed shot with just under a second left to play, the sophomore came up clutch in the game’s deciding moment.
It wasn’t a great showing from Tech, though. The Red Raiders struggled to guard the Panthers’ unusual five-out offense that features all five players operating near the 3-point line and cutting to the rim at seemingly random moments.
Tech would trail by the count of 40-31 at the half and would allow NIU to expand its lead to 58-43 with 11:31 remaining. At that point, it seemed as if the Red Raiders were destined to drop their second game in as many days.
However, Isaacs and Joe Toussaint would take over down the stretch to help carry their team back. That duo would end the game with 39 combined points to provide the Red Raiders with the bulk of their offense.
Let’s go inside the box score and break down what we saw in an exciting Thanksgiving Day game. Hopefully, this will be a win that pays dividends come Selection Sunday.
Joe Toussaint continues to play his best basketball for Texas Tech
Though Isaacs’ game-winner was the defining moment of the day, Joe Toussaint helped carry the Red Raiders back from their huge deficit as he continues to play the best basketball of his career. That’s an encouraging sign and it is helping give the Red Raiders some much-needed offensive punch.
His 21 points on Thursday were the second-most he’s ever scored as a collegiate. Last season, he topped that by one point in Lubbock when he helped lead West Virginia past the Red Raiders.
Now, however, he’s powering the Tech attack. He’s scored in double figures in every game this year. That’s the first time he’s managed to do so in five games in a row.
Though he is only 6 feet tall, Toussaint does not fear taking the ball to the rim. While he’s also been liberal with his 3-point shooting this season, it’s when he attacks off the dribble that he is the most impactful.
For much of Wednesday’s loss to Villanova, Toussaint and his teammates were unable to break down the defense with penetration. UNI tried to deploy a similar defensive strategy but the Panthers lack the size and strength on the perimeter that the Wildcats deploy.
As a result, Toussaint was able to get into the center of the UNI defense and he was 4-8 from two-point range. Also, he got the line seven times converting each opportunity he was rewarded with. Most importantly, eleven of his points came in the final 11:31 when Tech mounted its comeback.
Toussaint is averaging 14.4 points per game this year, which would be a career-high should he keep up that pace. Tech has desperately needed that type of offense from the WVU transfer early in the season and he was again an offensive force in this game, which helped save his team from a second-straight loss.