With the start of Big 12 Conference play rapidly approaching for the Texas Tech men’s basketball team, resolutions can’t wait until the new year.
The Red Raiders (5-5) have just two non-conference games remaining — beginning at 7 p.m. today against visiting Cal State Baskersfield (6-6) — before tipping off the conference slate at Oklahoma State on Jan. 4.
Following a 16-point loss to Oral Roberts on Thursday, Tech coach Billy Gillispie said the team’s need for improvement is vast and, with the non-conference opportunities quickly shrinking away, strides need to be made in a hurry.
“We’re going to try to get better every single possession,” Gillispie said. “Messages don’t usually work, I don’t think. We’re just trying to get better, trying to understand how we need to play. We’ve got to do better defensively. All my teams (in the past were) quite a bit better than we are defensively.”
Though Tech managed just 20 points in the first half against ORU, hampered by 16 turnovers, Gillispie lamented his team’s defensive performance foremost during his postgame press conference.
“We didn’t do a good job of not letting them catch it where they wanted,” Gillispie said, “and we didn’t compete hard enough once they caught it. We didn’t help one another enough.”
One reason for Tech’s defensive struggles is the second-chance opportunities it has given opponents. The Red Raiders rank near the middle of the Big 12 pack in field-goal percentage defense (38.8 percent), but they are last in rebounding (33.2 per game) and ninth in rebounding margin (+1.8).
Freshman Jordan Tolbert ranks eighth in the conference with 6.5 rebounds per contest, but Gillispie said there must be a stronger collective effort from his team on the glass.
“We had a few periods there (against ORU) where we rebounded OK,” Gillispie said, “but it was mainly Tolbert getting a defensive rebound. Not enough guys are helping him.”
CSU-Bakersfield is coming off a 30-point drubbing of Pacific on Thursday, but the Roadrunners have lost five straight road games, including a 70-64 defeat at the hands of former Big 12 team Colorado on Dec. 19.
Tonight’s game will be the first-ever meeting between Tech and CSU-Bakersfield.
Ty Nurse and Toddrick Gotcher, who both missed the Oral Roberts game due to injury (Gotcher also sat out against Grambling State on Dec. 18), have practiced this week and could return to action tonight.
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