Toussaint brings speed, hustle in win over Rutgers

Joe Toussaint wasn’t recruited by Rutgers, and it showed in Iowa’s win over the Scarlet Knights on Wednesday.

Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor

With a ranked Big Ten team from the East Coast in town, Joe Toussaint could only show up and do one thing.

With Rutgers’ physical, conference-leading defense in Iowa City, Toussaint countered it by bringing his speed and toughness to Carver-Hawkeye Arena as the Hawkeyes beat Rutgers, 85-80, for their second ranked win at home in five days.

Toussaint finished with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting to go along with four assists and seven rebounds.

He brought a different edge in the win, which makes sense considering the Scarlet Knights didn’t recruit the Bronx, New York, native.

“I definitely played with a chip on my shoulder [Wednesday],” Toussaint said. “I did have that they didn’t recruit me in the back of my head, but that was just like a regular game to me.”

While his impact from driving into the lane played a key role, his knack for diving for loose balls proved to be pivotal.

With the game tied at 51, Toussaint dove for the ball around half court. After rolling over without being called for a travel, Toussaint dished it up the court to Ryan Kriener, who laid it in for an easy bucket — a patented Toussaint play.

The play led to a 16-8 Iowa run. It helped Iowa take control when the Scarlet Knights refused to let the game get away from them.

“He brings a whole other dimension to us, and I think it’s good,” Iowa guard Connor McCaffery said. “I think that even when he’s not in the mix, we change, but not necessarily for the worse. Then, he plays good, and it brings that speed, the hustle, transition, decision-making.”

In some ways, Toussaint’s game resembles Iowa’s as a whole.

He isn’t afraid of the moment. He isn’t afraid of any individual player. Instead, he showed that he can play within his own skill set and make the hustle plays necessary to improve the Hawkeyes’ record.

The swagger’s there, too.

When Toussaint hit a 3-pointer from the right corner, he turned to the Rutgers bench and gave a little wave as he went back to the defensive end.

“It was actually one of the coaches [who] said something to me,” Toussaint said. “I didn’t hear him. I just knew he said something negative, so I just turned and I just waved. I wasn’t going to say anything negative back.”

The fight Iowa showed toward the end of the game epitomizes what this Hawkeye group brings to the floor. Much like Toussaint, it doesn’t give up when things look unlikely.

After taking a nine-point lead with just over four minutes remaining, Rutgers fought back with a run — thanks to a couple of Hawkeye turnovers — to take a lead of its own with 2:25 remaining.

Then, after a couple of timely buckets and some crucial free throws, Iowa escaped its home arena with a victory.

Instead of getting down on themselves when things went awry, the Hawkeyes came up with big plays.

That’s a staple of the team, and a staple of Toussaint.

“After the two turnovers, we had an opportunity to hang our heads — we did not do that,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “We kept fighting. We executed on offense to perfection. Then, we got the key stops.”