Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie repeated an interesting phrase shortly after his team’s narrow 76-70 exhibition game victory overSouthwesternOklahomaStateon Thursday at United Spirit Arena.
“I thought it was perfect,” he said.
Gillispie wasn’t talking about his team’s performance. Far from it, in fact.
“We didn’t really have anybody do anything,” Gillispie said. “We were just totally outside of everything, individually and as a team.”
Perfection, Gillispie said, referred to the experience of having a horde of new players, including a handful of freshmen, play in their first game situation.
The inexperience of the young Red Raiders showed. They turned the ball over 28 times among other struggles.
But the game served as a measuring stick. Some teams around the country choose not to schedule exhibition games, opting instead for scrimmages that are closed to the public and the media.
Gillispie said he prefers the exhibition format because it allows his team to experience playing in front of a crowd – like the 21,088 on hand Thursday – even if it means “they see how bad you are.”
“You can say what you need to do in practice and all those kind of things, but until you play against someone else, sometimes, it doesn’t always stick,” Gillispie said.
For all Tech struggled with on Thursday, it did pull out a win in front of a spirited crowd enticed by free admission and the chance to be among the first to witness the tip-off of a new era of basketball in Lubbock.
Tech made ’em sweat.
The Red Raiders led 72-66 with just 22 seconds to play. But the Bulldogs’ Marin Zelalija – who led all scores with 24 points – hit a 3-pointer and was fouled by Ty Nurse. Zelalija made the free throw to convert a four-point play, cutting Tech’s lead to two with 20 seconds left.
That was as close as the Bulldogs would get, though, as they committed three turnovers in their final four possessions, and the Red Raiders were perfect from the free throw line down the stretch to hold off the late charge.
Javarez Willis led the way for Tech with 22 points. He was the spark during a tight first half, when Tech turned the ball over 14 times and committed 16 fouls.
Trailing 35-31 at halftime, the Red Raiders established their game plan early in the second period.
Tech quickly got the ball inside to senior Robert Lewandowski, who scored six quick points to help his team tie the score for the first time since the opening tip. Lewandowski finished with 18 points.
The Red Raiders finally grabbed their first lead when Jaron Nash, who sparked the team with 11 points and solid defense, made a layup with 12 minutes left in the game to put Tech up 50-49.
“The only guy that really started taking things away from them was Jaron Nash,” Gillispie said. “He did a fantastic job of denying passes like we normally try to, and he really turned the game for us.”
November 3, 2011 - 10:30pm