Red Raiders fall to Wolfpack in NCAA Tournament

Release Provided By Wes Bloomquist Texas Tech Athletics

PITTSBURGH – Texas Tech had its season end with an 80-67 loss to NC State in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament First Round on Thursday at PPG Paint Arena.

The Red Raiders (23-11) were led by senior Joe Toussaint’s 16 points and sophomore Darrion Williams who added 10 points, seven rebounds and six assists in a game where both played all 40 minutes. Pop Isaacs scored 12 points, while Kerwin Walton finished with nine points and Chance McMillian provided eight points. Warren Washington returned to the court after missing six straight games to lead Tech with eight rebounds and also provide six points.

NC State (23-14) advanced to play Oakland which upset Kentucky on Thursday in Pittsburgh. The Wolfpack have now won six straight games after running through the ACC Tournament before eliminating the Red Raiders by owning a 42-20 scoring advantage in the paint. Ben Middlebrooks led NC State with 21 points off the bench, including going 9-for-10 at the free-throw line while Mohamed Diarra recorded a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds and DJ Burns and DJ Horne had 16 points each. The Wolfpack were 21-for-26 at the free-throw line. Tech went 12-for-14.

“Give NC State credit,” Texas Tech coach Grant McCasland said. “I just thought they were tougher than we were. I thought Middlebrooks, Diarra, their rebounding, their physicality, and then the combo of D.J. and D.J. scoring inside and out. And what a great team. They kept us on our heels. Their paint points were the difference in the game, and I thought they beat us. Give them credit.”

Tech finished the game shooting 24-for-62 (38.7%) from the field and was 7-for-31 (22.6%) on 3-pointers. Walton was 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and Williams made two. The Red Raiders finished the game with 15 assists and only 10 turnovers but were outscored 16-6 off turnovers.

Williams hit a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to stop a 10-0 run by NC State which took the 37-33 lead into the break in a half that saw nine lead changes. Toussaint led Tech with 13 points and three assists at halftime, while Williams and Isaacs had six points each. The Red Raiders were limited to only 3-for-14 shooting on 3-pointers in the first half but had eight assists on 13 baskets. NC State had a 19-17 rebounding advantage and a 20-14 scoring advantage in the paint. Middlebrooks  led the Wolfpack with 14 points after shooting 4-for-6 from the field and 6-of-6 at the free-throw line. NC State was 8-for-9 at the line. Tech was 4-for-4. The Red Raiders started the game on a 4-0 run with baskets from Toussaint and Isaacs and led 7-3 with Toussaint making the first 3-pointer of the game. Washington made his first basket of the game with a dunk, cutting the deficit to 12-11 before Williams hit his first 3-pointer for a 17-16 lead. An Isaacs layup gave Tech a 30-27 lead before NC State went on a 10-0 run to take a 37-30 lead. Williams ended the half with the 3-pointer to take the game into halftime down four.

The teams exchanged 3-pointers to begin the second half with Horne and Isaacs each hitting one. Diarra pushed NC State’s lead to 45-39 with another 3-pointer for the Wolfpack before a second-chance basket from Washington and McMillian jumper was the Red Raider response to get it back to two. NC State led 59-49 after a Diarra fastbreak dunk and Morsell fastbreak layup on back-to-back possessions midway through the second half. The run was at 9-0 before an alley-oop dunk by Washington from Isaacs stopped it and took the game to 61-51 with nine minutes remaining. A Burns basket had NC State on a 13-2 extended run and up 65-51 before a pair of Jennings free throws. Walton would hit his first 3-pointer of the game to cut the margin to 66-56 with 5:26 on the clock but Diarra and Middlebrooks responded with a pair of inside baskets to push it back to 14 going into the final media timeout. NC State had made eight of its last 10 shots to take the 70-56 lead.

“Early, I thought NC State did a great job defending us, and our threes in the first half were difficult,” McCasland said. “We didn’t share the ball well enough the first half and I felt like we needed a few paint touches. We needed to have more patience and create multiple paint touch opportunities to get threes. We looked at it at halftime and I thought we made a few adjustments, but we couldn’t guard them in the second half and then we got on our heels because of their point production and hit the panic button a little bit and give them credit they got to the free throw line and made free throws. They shot 80 percent from the free throw line. It was kind of that double combo. We got down, and I thought we had a little better flow to us offensively during that stretch, just couldn’t get stops.”

The Red Raiders were making the program’s 20th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and are now 19-21 all-time. The loss snapped a streak of four straight wins in the opening round of the tournament.

“You know, one person that jumps out to me who played 40 minutes tonight, Darrion Williams couldn’t even hardly walk in the semifinal game against Houston,” McCasland said. “He comes out and plays 40 minutes, has 10 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists and no turnovers. I mean just the grit that this group continued to show I just love, and guys like Darrion, I think moving forward, are really going to be the foundation of what we do. What he did tonight and showed even though he was beat up, showed kind of the heart that I think this program will have. We’ve got to be better defensively, and we’ll continue to improve and do things to improve our program, but the people that invest in Red Raiders across the country, our home court advantage.

“I just believe honestly we’ll compete for a National Championship. I believe it’ll be soon. I love the administration. I love the students at Texas Tech. I love the community of Lubbock, and our family loves it and I can’t be more excited about where we’re going and what we’re going to do. I do believe that the best days are ahead of us and I’m thankful for Joe and Warren and their investment in trusting us because they set the foundation to move this forward.”

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