Iowa Men's Basketball

Iowa freshman Joe Toussaint learns from bad game, responds with good one

Bronx native excited to head back East for Saturday game in Philadelphia

Iowa Hawkeyes guard Joe Toussaint (1) blocks Kennesaw State Owls forward Ugo Obineke (15) in the first half of their NCA
Iowa Hawkeyes guard Joe Toussaint (1) blocks Kennesaw State Owls forward Ugo Obineke (15) in the first half of their NCAA men's basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — He didn’t get down on himself, didn’t pout.

When Joe Toussaint’s first collegiate start went poorly last week against Cincinnati, the Iowa Hawkeyes freshman did one thing. Call home to the Bronx to talk to his mom, Satuyee.

“She told me I was fine,” Toussaint said. “Just slow down and change my sneakers. Play confident, don’t let anybody take your confidence.”

Great advice. Be confident ... wait, what, change your sneakers?

Yep, Toussaint did that. He wore a new pair for Iowa’s 93-51 win Sunday afternoon over Kennesaw State.

The old ones are history.

Hey, whatever works. Toussaint had six points, seven assists and five steals in the rout, and he only played 22 minutes.

“Just stay under control, move my feet more on defense instead of my hands,” Toussaint said. “(I was) not playing within myself. If something goes wrong, don’t get down on yourself. I mean, I’m a confident person, but things weren’t really going my way that game (against Cincinnati) and that kind of frustrated me.”

Toussaint will play a much bigger role now that Jordan Bohannon is out for the season after having a second hip surgery. The 6-footer gives Iowa (10-3) big-time quickness and that stereotypical New York toughness learned from playing on the playgrounds of the famed Rucker Park.

He had three quick turnovers and picked up three quick fouls against Cincinnati, which limited him to just four minutes of playing time. It was a humbling lesson learned.

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“To be honest with you, he would have settled down,” said Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery. “He got into foul trouble, and Bakari (Evelyn) played extremely well. So he was kind of the odd man out coming down the stretch. But I think he grew up from that experience. He had three great workouts in a row (after Christmas). The right mindset, the right frame of mind. Six points, seven assists, five steals, I thought he really controlled the game. Really impressed with him.”

“I was just playing within myself,” said Toussaint. “I was playing confident, playing for my teammates, trying to get my teammates involved. Trying to score a little bit, trying to show a little bit of everything. Trying to play good defense.”

Iowa, ranked 23rd in this week’s Associated Press poll, has Big Ten Conference games only the rest of the way, including Saturday afternoon against No. 21 Penn State at The Palestra in Philadelphia. Toussaint will have lots of family and friends there to root him on, just as he did last month when the Hawkeyes played at Syracuse.

He said it’s about a three to four-hour drive.

“Not too far from home,” Toussaint said. “I’ll have a big crowd there, too. Probably the same amount (as Syracuse), 20 to 25.”

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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