No. 25 Red Raiders advance to Big 12 Championship semifinals

KANSAS CITY – No. 25 Texas Tech advanced to the semifinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship after jumping out to a 9-0 lead and never looking back in an 81-67 quarterfinal win over No. 20 BYU on Thursday at T-Mobile Center. The win sends the Red Raiders (23-9) to the Big 12 Championship semifinals for the seventh time in program history where they will play No. 1 Houston (29-3) at 6 p.m. on Friday after the Cougars also advanced with a 60-45 win over TCU in the second quarterfinal of the day.

Pop Isaacs led Tech with 22 points after making three 3-pointers, while Chance McMillian had 17 points and a team-high eight rebounds in a game where the Red Raiders led wire-to-wire and were up by 23 in the first half. Tech finished the game with a 42-34 rebounding advantage and held BYU (23-10) to only 7-for-35 (20%) on 3-pointers.

“What a great atmosphere, it’s awesome to be at the Big 12 Championship,” Texas Tech coach Grant McCasland said. “We knew facing a really talented offensive team in BYU that they would put you in a lot of problems. Early in the game our connected defense continued to improve and I thought we made it hard enough on them, even though they did miss a few open ones, our rebounding was tremendous. We’ve got a great fight. We’ve got a great team. I’m really thankful to be moving on.”

Isaacs recorded his ninth game of the season with 20 or more points after going 9-for-19 from the field and 3-for-7 from beyond the arc. Tech had five players score in double figures for the third time this season with Kerwin Walton scoring 12 with two 3-pointers, while Robert Jennings and Joe Toussaint had 10 points each. Toussaint led Tech with four assists in a game where the team had 12 assists on 27 makes. McMillian had a team-high 33 minutes played in his reserve role where he led the team with eight rebounds.

“Coach told the guards if you can get a loose ball go ahead and get it if the bigs are boxing out,” McMillian said. “So, I really take pride in that. Any ball that I see I can go get, I’m going to go get it.”

Darrion Williams suffered a mild ankle sprain in the first half but would return to play for 28 minutes. He had seven points and four rebounds, breaking a streak of 10 straight games scoring in double figures. The 22 points for Isaacs were the most for a Red Raider in a Big 12 Championship game since Jarrett Culver scored 26 in 2019 during his sophomore season. It was also his 15th time this season leading the team in scoring. Walton added a career-high seven rebounds, including two offensive rebounds.

“We came in locked in,” Walton said. “They said a few things about us before the game so it turned us up a little bit. It’s the Big 12 Tournament. We’re excited to be here. We know we could make a good run in this tournament.”

BYU’s top-three scorers were all reserves in the loss against Tech with Jaxson Robinson scoring 18 points on 4-for-12 shooting on 3-pointers, while Fousseyni Traore had 13 and Richie Saunders added 12 points and six rebounds. Aly Khalifa was limited to three points and Trevin Knell and Dallin Hall combined to go 0-for-7 on 3-pointers from the starting lineup. The Cougars finished the game 25-for-67 (37.3%) from the field. Tech

Tech took a 42-23 lead into halftime after making seven 3-pointers, owning a 26-17 rebounding advantage, and limiting BYU to just 3-for-18 on 3-pointers. Isaacs led the Red Raiders with 15 points after going 3-for-5 on 3-pointers in the first half while Walton had 10 points with two 3-pointers. Walton and Yalaho were leading the Red Raiders with five rebounds each while Toussaint had a team-high three assists. Tech started the game on a 9-0 run with a Toussaint layup, Isaacs 3-pointer, and Jennings making a layup and then two free throws. Khalifa scored BYU’s first points but a McMillian 3-pointer gave Tech a 12-2 lead going into the first media timeout. Walton provided second-chance basket for a 20-10 lead seven minutes in and another McMillian 3-pointer pushed the lead to 25-11 midway through the first half. Isaacs would make his second 3-pointer for a 30-15 lead and was followed by Toussaint making another for a 3-point lead. The third 3-pointers from Isaacs made it a 40-17 lead.

Tech would take a 50-30 lead after free throws from Jennings and McMillian before Williams scored his first points of the game on a layup to give Tech a 56-34 lead with 14 minutes to play. BYU would mount a comeback attempt, going on a 15-0 run to cut the score to 62-55 before a Toussaint 3-pointer to stop the run with 4:41 to play and another 3 from Williams pushed the lead to 68-55 and regain control.

“You’ve got to start with our defense,” McCasland said. “We held them to 37%. I think it was to our advantage that we got the bye. That’s the reason why you play well during the regular conference season. I’m thrilled with our defensive effort.”

Texas Tech is returning to the semifinals for the seventh time, most recently in 2022. The program is 17-26 all-time in the Big 12 Championship and is looking to win its first Big 12 title. The Red Raiders advanced to the 2022 Big 12 Championship final but would lose to Kansas before making a run to the NCAA Sweet 16. This season, Tech is now 6-4 against AP Top 25 teams.

Release provided by Wes Bloomquist Texas Tech Athletics

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