Texas Tech basketball dominates BYU to reach Big 12 Semifinals

Thanks to an early barrage, the Texas Tech basketball team dominated BYU on Thursday to set up a meeting with either TCU or Houston.

BYU v Texas Tech
BYU v Texas Tech / Jay Biggerstaff/GettyImages
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The first time Texas Tech and BYU met this season, the Cougars jumped out to a 17-point first-half lead but let the Red Raiders storm back for a seven-point win in Lubbock. In Wednesday's rematch in the Big 12 Tournament, the script nearly flipped as BYU cut what was at one point a 23-point Red Raider second-half lead to just seven points at 62-55 with just over five minutes left to play.

Fortunately, the Red Raiders had another plan. With the crowd cheering on the Cougars' comeback bid, the Red Raiders would get back-to-back 3-pointers from Joe Toussaint and a hobbled Darrion Williams to push the lead back to 13 points and essentially end any BYU hopes of pulling off the unthinkable. Ultimately, Grant McCasland's team would fend off the Cougars for an 81-67 victory in the Big 12 Tournament Quarterfinals.

It was a reminder of how resilient and tough this Texas Tech team has been all season fighting through injuries and overcoming roster flaws to get to 23-9 on the season and reach the Big 12 semifinals.

Prior to the game, BYU's players said they had hoped to run into the Red Raiders in Kansas City to avenge their loss in Lubbock. However, the Red Raiders were the team that that looked like the more motivated squad in the first half.

Jumping out to a 9-0 and 12-2 lead in the opening minutes, Tech never trailed and held a 42-23 halftime edge. That was thanks in large part to some hot shooting from the Red Raiders and cold shooting from the Cougars.

In the opening 20 minutes, Tech shot 51.7% overall and 63.6% (7-11) from 3-point range. Meanwhile, BYU was able to shoot just 21.2% overall and 16.6% (3-18) from 3-point range. Though the shooting numbers would even out a bit in the second half, Tech built a large enough cushion to be able to fend off every BYU salvo.

It was one of the best performances of the season from the Red Raiders who have won four games in a row and appear to be peaking at just the right time. So let's go inside the box score for some rapid reactions to the latest Red Raider win.

Texas Tech dominates the glass

When a team shoots as many 3s and has as many outside shooters as BYU does, rebounding is critical because 3-point misses often lead to long offensive rebounds and open spot-up jumpers. That's why it was so important that Tech was able to win the battle on the boards 42-34.

What's more, Tech managed to hold an advantage in second-chance points 16-7. By contrast, the first time these teams played, it was the Cougars that led in that category, 18-7.

This is now the fourth game in a row that Tech has won the rebounding battle. That's a great sign for McCasland's team in the postseason.

Robert Jennings comes up big

For his career, Texas Tech sophomore forward Robert Jennings has just three double-digit scoring games. One of those came on Thursday when he tallied 10 points to go along with seven rebounds.

It was a continuation of the strong play he's shown as of late as he's transformed himself into a completely different player than he was just a month ago. In his last three games, he's averaged 8.6 points and 6.6 boards. That has helped keep the Red Raiders' head above water with starting center Warren Washington out.

Isaacs and McMillian stay hot

Pop Isaacs has completely put his recent prolonged shooting slump in the past. In his last five games he's averaging 17.6 points per game. That is after he had only one double-digit scoring effort in the previous five contests.

Meanwhile, Chance McMillan was electric off the bench. Putting up 17 points and grabbing eight rebounds, he gave Tech some much-needed punch while playing the most minutes of anyone on the team. He's also scored in double figures in each of his past five games averaging 14.2 points during that run. The postseason is all about guard play and the Red Raiders are getting some fantastic performances from these two guards as the season hits due-or-die time.

Darrion Williams avoids disaster

Early in the first half, while fighting on the floor for a loose ball, sophomore forward Darrion Williams went down with an ankle injury that forced him to head to the Texas Tech locker room. When he left the floor, he was struggling to put any weight on that ankle making Texas Tech fans fear the worst.

However, he would return to action before the half was over. Though he was noticeably hobbled, he would finish the game scoring seven points and grabbing four boards in 28 minutes of action. After the game, McCasland said he expects Williams to be ready to go on Friday.

The injury to Williams might have been the only negative from Thursday. It was a tremendous effort by the Red Raiders as they picked up their sixth Quad-I win on the season and possibly improved their seeding for next week's NCAA Tournament.

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