There's no question that life in the Big 12 is a grind. That's why the conference's new policy of giving each team a week off during the league schedule is a great idea. And no player on the Texas Tech basketball team needed last week's six-day break more than point guard Joe Toussaint.
This season, Toussaint has been fantastic after transferring to Texas Tech from West Virginia. He's averaging 13.4 points and 4.0 assists per game, both career-highs. That is despite the fact that he's being asked to do more than ever before in his collegiate career.
Joe Toussaint has been a warrior for Texas Tech
Prior to this season, Toussaint had never played more minutes per game than the 21.7 he logged last season as a reserve for the Mountaineers. However, this season, he's giving the Red Raiders 33.1 minutes per game. That's almost double what he averaged as a freshman and junior and triple what he played as a sophomore.
In 16 of Tech's 19 games thus far, Toussaint has played 30 or more minutes. In the other three, he played at least 25.
To put that in perspective, for the remainder of his career, he had only six games in which is was on the floor for at least 30 minutes. Thus, it is easy to see why the undersized guard appeared to be worn down prior to Tech's break.
Texas Tech saw Toussaint return to form against Oklahoma
The week before Tech had six days off, Toussaint looked exhausted. It showed in his numbers as well.
Against Houston and BYU, he managed only nine and five points respectively. Granted, those are two of the better defensive teams in the nation but still, it was obvious that Toussaint was running on fumes.
In those two games, he shot just 3-14 from the floor and 1-4 from 3-point range. What's more, the 84.7% free-throw shooter was just 7-11 (63.3%) at the line in those two games combined. That's the sign of tired legs.
Fortunately, against Oklahoma on Saturday, Toussaint put up numbers consistent with what we have come to expect from him this year. Though his impact was overshadowed by the play of Chance McMillan (who notched a career-high 27 points) he was a key cog in the Red Raiders' win.
Toussaint managed to amass 14 points on 5-11 shooting on Saturday. However, that wasn't the only way he impacted the game.
With six assists, he was a huge reason that the Red Raiders were able to put up 85 points for the second-straight Big 12 game. That was the most assists he has dished out since the Big 12 opener against Texas on January 6.
Of course, defense is also impacted by energy and that was another area where Toussaint excelled in Norman. With four steals, he was the team leader. It was the most steals he's had in a game this year.
Thus far, Toussaint has been the heart and soul of the Texas Tech basketball team. He's managed to take his game to a new level and time after time, he's been the guy Tech has leaned on.
Fortunately, when he needed to be carried by his teammates, a player such as Pop Isaacs was able to step in and pick up the slack (Isaccs had 32 points against BYU, for instance). However, for this team to max out its potential, Toussaint has to be a factor the way he was in Norman.
No one is asking Toussaint to take over each and every game. As we've seen in recent outings, Tech is good enough to win even when Toussaint plays an average game by his standards.
However, he is critical to the hopes of a run to the NCAA Tournament and if he is able to maintain his level of play at the standard that he has set for most of this season, Tech will have one of the most dynamic guard combinations in the conference. That's why it was so encouraging to see him look like himself again in Norman after a much-needed extended rest.