Iowa really hard to beat when Joe Toussaint plays like he did against Ohio State
Sophomore point guard has seven assists in 14 minutes off the bench
By Pat Harty
On a team filled with size, length and multiple shooters, Joe Toussaint stands out.
Iowa’s 6-foot sophomore point guard, with his speed and cat-like quickness, and with his ability to get to the basket and pressure the ball on defense, is like nobody else on the roster.
Toussaint is a true point guard in every sense of the word, and as he showed against Ohio State on Sunday, he is a valuable weapon for Iowa.
In just 14 minutes off the bench, Toussaint dished out seven assists and his performance was one of many reasons why No. 9 Iowa cruised to a surprisingly lopsided 73-57 victory over the fourth-ranked Buckeyes in Columbus, Ohio.
It has been an up-and-down season for Toussaint, and his playing time has suffered due to his recent struggles.
But Fran McCaffery went to Toussaint early in the first half against Ohio State and Toussaint delivered like only he can.
He controlled the tempo on offense with his penetration. He pressured the ball at the point of attack on defense, and he avoided the turnovers, which have plagued him this season.
Toussaint only had one turnover in Sunday’s game, and Iowa only had five turnovers as a team.
“I was really impressed with him today,” said Fran McCaffery. “He played with great pace, and when he does, he impacts the game the way he did today.”
Toussaint gives Iowa a dimension like no other player does on the roster.
And like Fran McCaffery said, when Toussaint plays under control he is a valuable piece to a team with lots of pieces, but none like him.
His playing time should increase with sophomore forward Jack Nunge lost for the season with a knee injury, and maybe Toussiant was more relaxed in Sunday’s because he knew he’d have a bigger role.
Whatever the case, Toussaint played under control, but the Bronx, N.Y. native also played faster and quicker than every player on the court because he was faster and quicker than every player on the court.
The Buckeyes couldn’t keep Toussaint out of the lane, and that was critical to Iowa’s success.
Toussaint has trouble when he gets out of control. But it’s a tough balancing act between poise and explosiveness when a player has so much quickness and a game that relies on blowing past defenders.
“When he tries to force it a little bit, and it’s not easy, and we all get it,” Fran McCaffery said. “Sometimes, you feel like I want to play more, so if I do something I’ll stay out there longer.
“All he needs to do is play defense the way he did today, run our offense the way he did today, and he’ll play more. And there’s more opportunity now without Jack. We have to play a little bit smaller, but Joe’s a veteran guy, and we’re going to count on him.”
Toussaint has had games this season in which he barely has played as Jordan Bohannon’s backup at point guard. It would’ve been easy for Toussaint to lose focus and confidence, but he showed with Sunday’s performance that he was ready and able to contribute.
One of his most impressive plays in Sunday’s game actually came on a near turnover when Toussaint’s pass to Luka Garza was deflected. The ball rolled away and Toussaint dove on the floor and wrestled with Ohio State guard C.J. Walker for the ball.
Iowa had the possession arrow and then scored a basket on its next possession.
“Him making that play was huge for us, and it showed his toughness and his mental ability just to go in there and play as hard as he can for the time he gets, and I’m really proud of him,” Garza said.
Toussaint now just has to do it again, and again.
The next step for him is consistency.
It’d be nice if he could become a better shooter. But Toussaint’s game will always be built around his incredible quickness, tenacity and grit.
He is the perfect complement to Bohannon at point guard because they’re so different with Bohannon a better shooter, but not as quick as Toussaint.
Garza described Toussaint as a warrior, and Garza should know.