Grant McCasland needed only one Big 12 game to become a Red Raider conquering hero. Saturday night in the Texas Tech basketball coach's conference debut with the program, his team was able to grind out a gritty, gutsy 78-67 win over the No. 20 Texas Longhorns in Austin.
It is by far the best win of the season to date for a team that had yet to face a ranked opponent and had only one win over a team from one of the major conferences in the sport. It was also likely the last time the two universities will meet on the hardwood in the state capitol given Texas' impending departure for the S.E.C. Here are a few rapid reactions to what we saw in this impressive performance from the Red Raiders.
Texas Tech guard Pop Isaacs plays a solid game under difficult circumstances
Given the off-court controversy that was made public just 24 hours prior, all eyes were on Pop Isaacs who was lustily booed by the Texas fan base every time he touched the basketball. However, those jeers didn't phase him one bit as he finished with a team-high 21 points on 7-15 shooting.
No one knew what to expect from the sophomore guard. Was he going to let the noise impact his play or was he going to rise above it? That's what everyone was curious to find out. Fortunately, he took the latter of the two paths.
He was 3-5 from 3-point range and 4-4 at the free-throw line and he turned the ball over only twice. What's more, he pulled down three boards, stole two balls, and dished out an assist.
In the second half with Tech clinging to a tenuous lead and with guard Joe Toussaint having to be careful with four fouls, Isaacs stepped up and took over the scoring lead along with Darrion Williams (who we will discuss shortly).
Isaacs hit a layup with 2:51 to play to push Tech's lead to 71-63 and then, with 0:52 to play, he would seal the win with another layup to put his team ahead 75-65. It was his third straight 20-point outing and his fifth straight game with at least 18 points and he continues to play the best basketball of his career.
What one makes of the off-court drama surrounding Isaacs is a matter of personal opinion. However, you do have to give him credit for playing through those difficult circumstances and coming up huge for his team in a hostile environment.