Three Thoughts on Texas Tech’s 80-67 Loss To NC State

Heartland College Sports – An Independent Big 12 Today Blog

The Texas Tech Red Raiders saw their season end with a 80-67 loss to NC State in the first round of the South Region of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.

Texas Tech and NC State were locked in a close battle early, but the Wolfpack — who won five games in five days to win the ACC Tournament to get into March Madness — pulled away.

 

Texas Tech’s Joe Toussaint led the Red Raiders in scoring with 16 points, while Pop Issacs had 12 and Darrion Williams added 10. Coupled with No. 14 Oakland’s massive upset of No. 3 Kentucky in the prior game, and the Red Raiders missed a big opportunity to, perhaps, get to the tournament’s second weekend.

Here are three thoughts on the game.

THE UNEXPECTED SHOWDOWN

As much talk as there was about NC State’s mammoth forward, DJ Burns, and Texas Tech’s sophomore guard, Pop Isaacs, it was a pair of other players that defined the game — at least in the first half.

Texas Tech’s Joe Toussaint had a tremendous first half for the Red Raiders, as he scored 13 points, grabbed three rebounds and dished out three assists, one of which was a beautiful needle-thread to forward Robert Jennings under the basket.

Meanwhile for NC State, forward Ben Middlebrooks dropped in 14 points. He was the primary backup to Burns and his lithe frame and mobility put the Red Raiders in binds defensively.

How did it end? Middlebrooks had a career-high 21 points, while Toussaint cooled a bit in the second half and finished with 16 points. Toussaint didn’t make a field goal in the second half.

THE THREE-FACTOR

If any one thing did Texas Tech in against NC State it was the 3-point shooting. Yes, the Red Raiders had difficulty defending the interior and picking off passes across the paint. That was evident by Middlebrooks, Burns and Mohamed Diarra — who had a double-double — picking them apart consistently.

 

But Texas Tech could have countered that with solid 3-point shooting. For the season, Tech is a 36.5% shooting team from the arc, and Darrion Williams and Kerwin Walton can light it up. If they were hot, it might not have mattered what the Wolfpack did to them inside.

But, the Red Raiders were a combined 7-for-31 (22.6%) from distance. Williams drained a pair, but Walton struggled most of the game before making three of them late in the contest.

Meanwhile, NC State shot half as many and shot a better percentage (38.5%). So, maybe a boost from the arc for Texas Tech wouldn’t have mattered that much. But, as the NC State lead slipped to double-digits, the Red Raiders didn’t have an avenue to counter the growing lead.

THE NUMBER TO KNOW: 54

That was the combined scoring of Diarra, Burns and Middlebrooks, who owned the interior for the Wolfpack all night.

WHAT’S NEXT?

NC State (23-14) will face No. 14 seed Oakland in the second round on Saturday.

Texas Tech (23-11) ends its first season under coach Grant McCasland.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.