Texas Tech men’s basketball coach Billy Gillispie isn’t allowing inexperience to become an excuse for his team’s turnover struggles through the first six games of the season.
The Red Raiders (3-3) rank 320th out of 338 Division I teams in turnovers, coughing the ball up 18.7 times per game. Of the team’s players who have seen significant minutes, only two — guards Toddrick Gotcher and Javarez Willis — have a positive assist-to-turnover ratio.
“You haven’t heard me give them excuses for being young, and I don’t believe in that,” Gillispie said. “Bottom line is we’re making too many careless mistakes.”
Clearly, Gillispie wants to reduce the overall number of mistakes his team is making with the ball, but there are certain types of turnovers the coach said his team must make an extra effort to eliminate.
He pointed to a sequence in the second half of Tech’s 76-70 loss to DePaul on Friday at the Old Spice Classic, when forward Robert Lewandowski rebounded a missed shot and — with the DePaul defense retreating to the other side of the court — fired a pass out of bounds. To compound the problem, Gillispie said, guard DeShon Minnis attempted to corral the wayward pass with one hand.
Later in the half, Tech recovered from a seven-point deficit to tie the game at 50 with 10 minutes to go. On the Red Raiders’ next two possessions, though, Tech players bounced the ball off their own feet as they attempted to make a play in transition, leading to quick Blue Demon points. In less than a minute, the Red Raiders had gone from being tied to once again trailing by seven.
“Those are the kinds of things that really drive you crazy because they don’t have to happen,” Gillispie said. “We have to understand that we don’t have that margin for error. You can’t give a possession away just like that. They’re getting better, but it’s still not anywhere near where we need to be, and it’s not where we should be at this point already.”
Though the Red Raiders lost all three contests at the Old Spice Classic, the team’s play in the tournament was not without positives. In fact, Gillispie said his team played better in Orlando than it had during its first three victories at home.
One of the highlights was the play of Jaron Nash, a Waterloo, Iowa, native who played last season at Tyler Junior College. After playing just one minute against DePaul on Friday, Nash — one of Tech’s most high-energy players — scored a career-high 15 points to go along with a team-high seven rebounds in Tech's 70-61 loss to Wake Forest on Sunday, his numbers often the result of hustling to loose balls.
“That was by far the best he had played since maybe one exhibition game,” Gillispie said. “We need him to play really well for us.”
Freshman Jordan Tolbert, meanwhile, averaged 18 points over the first two games before getting into foul trouble and playing limited minutes against Wake Forest on Sunday.
“There were times when Tolbert played very, very well,” Gillispie said. “There were some guys, individually, who had some spurts, but we’ve got to be more consistent, and they all need to play well together. They need to play well at the same time.”
Still, Gillispie wasn’t trying to paint a silver lining on the results.
“I go there to win, period,” he said. “I’m not one of those five-year plan (guys); I’m not a next-year guy. I don’t buy that stuff. I don’t like that, and we’re not going to be a part of that stuff. We got beat three times, and to me, there’s nothing worse that you could have happen.”