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Isaacs scores 22 as No. 25 Texas Tech holds off No. 20 BYU for 81-67 Big 12 quarterfinal win

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kerwin Walton and the rest of Texas Tech's players heard BYU chirping about wanting to face them after the Big 12 newcomers advanced into a quarterfinal matchup with the Red Raiders in the conference tournament.

By halftime, the Cougars might have been second-guessing the bravado.

Led by Pop Isaacs and Chance McMillian, the No. 25 Red Raiders raced to a 23-point first-half lead on Thursday. And that was plenty big, even when No. 20 BYU went on a furious charge late in the game, for an 81-67 victory at T-Mobile Center.

“We heard them say certain things, like they were ready for us and excited for us,” Walton said afterward, “but they didn't know how ready we were for them.”

Isaacs finished with 22 points, McMillian had 17 off the bench and Walton scored 12 for the No. 4 seed Red Raiders (23-9), who advanced to play No. 1 Houston on Friday night for a shot at the Big 12 Tournament championship.

BYU at least made it interesting with its late 15-0 run, and when Jaxson Robinson hit a pair of 3-pointers and Richie Saunders hit two free throws, the Cougars had closed to within 62-55 with 5:04 to go.

But unperturbed, Joe Toussaint answered with a 3-pointer for Texas Tech, and when Trevin Knell's answering 3 rimmed out at the other end, Darrion Williams added another to give coach Grant McCasland's team all the breathing room it needed.

“They put you in a lot of problems, and early in the game — our defense continues to improve — and I thought we made it hard on them,” McCasland said. “In the second half, I did a terrible job with the team. I did a terrible job keeping us aggressive.”

Robinson finished with 22 points to lead the Cougars, who shot 14 of 30 from the 3-point arc in a second-round win over UCF but were just 7 of 35 against Texas Tech. Fousseyni Traore finished with 13 points and Saunders had 12.

“Ton of credit to Texas Tech. They played great,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “They were really focused. Completely dialed in.”

Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid watched courtside at T-Mobile Center, trading his familiar red windbreaker for a white and blue one carrying a BYU logo. Reid graduated from there in 1981 and began his career with the Cougars under Hall of Fame coach LaVell Edwards in 1982. He still speaks fondly of those years spent in Provo, Utah.

“Big Red” — err, “Big Blue” in this case — didn't have a whole lot to cheer about most of the day.

Texas Tech raced to a 12-2 start, then put some distance on the Cougars by outscoring them 17-4 midway through the first half. Many of its baskets came after offensive rebounds, including a crushing 3 by Walton following a missed free throw, while cold-shooting BYU continually clanked just about every shot it took at the other end of the floor.

At one point, one of the nation's prolific 3-point shooting teams missed 12 straight shots during a 1-for-19 slump.

Probably to the delight of Reid's quarterback — and noted Texas Tech alum — Patrick Mahomes.

Isaacs led the way for the Red Raiders, just as he did in January, when he scored 23 of his 32 points in the second half to help them rally from a 16-point deficit in Lubbock. The second-team All-Big 12 guard buried a trio of 3s and had 15 points at the break, then helped his teammates make enough plays in the second half to absorb the Cougars' big run.

“We came in locked in,” Walton said. “We heard them say a few things about us before the game and it kind of turned us up a bit. And it's the Big 12 Tournament. We're excited to be here and go on a run.”

UP NEXT

BYU will return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2021, likely as the No. 5 or 6 seed.

Texas Tech was routed by Houston in January. Now, the Red Raiders have a chance for some revenge.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball

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