Texas Tech basketball overcomes slow start for crucial victory over WVU

Dow early by as many as 16 points in the first half, the Texas Tech basketball team rallied back for a crucial victory over West Virginia on Saturday in Morgantown.
Texas Tech v West Virginia
Texas Tech v West Virginia / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages

Early in the Texas Tech basketball team's game at West Virginia on Saturday, it appeared that the team that played with no life or urgency against Texas on Tuesday was on its way to another blowout loss. But after trailing 20-4 to open the game, the Red Raiders managed to right the ship and storm back for an 81-70 win to hit the 20-win mark for the season. Here are some rapid reactions to the latest Texas Tech comeback win.

Toussaint tortures his former school

Last year, while playing for West Virginia, Joe Toussaint scored a career-high 22 points against Texas Tech in Lubbock to help the Mountaineers pick up a road win. Thus, it was only fitting for hi;m to return the favor and have a big game to help Tech pick up a much-needed win in Morgantown and that's exactly what he did.

The senior had 21 points on 9-17 shooting while also dishing out seven assists and coming up with three steals. It was Toussaint's first 20-point game since December 6 when he scored 20 against Omaha in Lubbock.

On a night when Pop Isaacs had only 10 points and Kerwin Walton added just 3, Toussaint picked up the slack. It had to feel good to do it against his former school.

Yalaho is growing up

Again without big man Warren Washington, Tech had to lean heavily on Robert Jennings and Eemeli Yalaho in the paint. That was especially true with forward KyeRon Lindsay not making the trip.

While Jennings was serviceable with 5 points and 7 rebounds in 23 minutes, Yalaho was the more impressive forward.

In just 17 minutes of action, he scored 6 points as he was a perfect 3-3 from the floor. What's more, he played as good of defense as he could have against 6-foot-11 Jesse Edwards despite giving up five inches in that matchup.

This was the second solid game out of the last three for the true freshman. Two games ago, against UCF, he put up 8 points and 6 rebounds in a losing effort. Yalaho is starting to grow up after being pressed into action since Washington suffered his foot injury and that could pay both short and long-term dividends for this program.

WVU's guards don't make a difference

West Virginia has two guards who can be elite at times, Kerr Kriisa and RaeQuan Battle. That duo averages 11.5 and 16.9 points per game respectively and both have the capability of taking over games at any moment.

However, on Saturday they were both non-factors as Tech made it's run. That duo did combine for 25 points (15 from Battle) but most of that came in the first half.

In fact, that tandem would score only four points after halftime. All four came from Battle and two of those were courtesy of a last-second, garbage-time reverse dunk after the game had been decided. Those two players helped WVU build its large early lead but as Tech mounted its comeback, they were nowhere to be found.

McMillan has another big game

Off the Red Raider bench, Chance McMillan had his first huge game in some time. With 19 points, he was Tech's second-leading scorer and he hit some incredibly timely 3-pointers.

It was the first time in almost a month that McMillan had contributed over 10 points in a game. On February 6, he scored 15 at Baylor, the last time before Saturday that he had managed to put up a big number in the scoring column.

Twenty wins is impressive

Texas Tech fans shouldn't take for granted reaching the 20-win plateau. After all, that has happened now only 17 times in the 99-year history of the program.

McCasland deserves a ton of credit for that accomplishment. In his first year as a major-conference head coach, he took a team with a flawed roster, one bringing together more newcomers than returners, and built a 20-win team. He did that in spite of losing forward Devan Cambridge for the year early on and being without Washington for four of the last five games.

They say that the first year of a head coach's tenure is a transition year. Thus, expectations should be lowered. However, McCasland is now guaranteed to be no worse than .500 in Big 12 play and he has a 20-win team that is almost certainly headed to the NCAA Tournament. What a great job by this entire coaching staff.