Toussaint plays at own pace in win over North Florida

Joe Toussaint did it all on both ends of the floor Thursday, showing his playmaking ability on offense and his incredible quickness on defense.

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Toussaint plays at own pace in win over North Florida

Iowa Guard Joe Toussaint throws the ball back into play during the Iowa Men's basketball game vs The University of North Florida in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Osprey 83-68.

Iowa Guard Joe Toussaint throws the ball back into play during the Iowa Men's basketball game vs The University of North Florida in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Osprey 83-68.

Katie Goodale

Iowa Guard Joe Toussaint throws the ball back into play during the Iowa Men's basketball game vs The University of North Florida in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Osprey 83-68.

Katie Goodale

Katie Goodale

Iowa Guard Joe Toussaint throws the ball back into play during the Iowa Men's basketball game vs The University of North Florida in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Osprey 83-68.

Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor

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A weak crowd, a botched national anthem, and an injured official all could have been a bad omen for Iowa when North Florida visited Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday.

Then Joe Toussaint showed up.

The freshman from the Bronx displayed his swagger on both ends of the floor with no-look passes on offense and infuriating quickness on defense in the Hawkeyes’ 83-68 win over the Ospreys.

Despite the light crowd for a men’s basketball game, the applause that met Toussaint when he left the floor made for deserving recognition.

“It’s always a work in progress, but I’m starting to get comfortable with the offense,” Toussaint said. “I feel I’m getting into the flow of the game. I’m not rushing things — [I’m] taking my time and playing at my own pace.”

That pace has been apparent all season, and it became abundantly clear on Thursday.

Toussaint’s main speed seems to be turned up as high as it can go. He shows it on the defensive end, but his ability to change speeds shows on offense.

Toussaint’s quickness is his biggest asset, but his strength inside may be undervalued.

When Iowa faced a one-point deficit midway through the first half, Toussaint drove inside and took a big hit while getting the ball to fall through the nylon.

“The thing, to me, that made him special tonight was he played at his pace,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “Obviously, he has tremendous speed, and that’s one of the things we love about him, but he has great vision.

“He’s a freshman, so they played 1-3-1, they played 1-1-3, they played man-to-man, they ran two guys at him, and played 2-2-1. He didn’t rattle. He really moved the ball. Knew when to go, when not to go.”

Toussaint’s ability to find the open man instantly stood out when he took the floor against the Ospreys.

It reached its peak when Toussaint found big man Luka Garza — who finished with a game-high 29 points — strolling down the lane.

Toussaint didn’t even need to look. He hit Garza in the perfect spot for an easy two points, ramping up his confidence in the process.

“I kind of glanced at [Garza] first, and we made eye contact,” Toussaint said. “So, I knew when the ball got back to me, I would drive the gap. I knew he would be open, because I knew the big would step. When I drove, I knew the big would step up, so I just dropped it off to him.”

Toussaint put his scoring ability, quickness, defensive prowess, and playmaking savviness on display against North Florida.

If he can find a way to put all of those skills together consistently, he will be a problem for opposing teams when conference play comes around.

“He’s a spark plug — I think that’s the type of player he is,” Garza said. “He’s just really quick with the ball and really knows how to make the right read when he’s driving to the basket whether to pass it, whether to go up and finish it or kick it out. He’s been doing that since he got here, so I’m not really surprised.

“Every time he comes into the game, I expect there to be a flashy play. That’s just the type of player he is.”

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