Willis plays with pain
Javarez Willis may not be mistaken for Willis Reed, but the Red Raiders may not have earned their first Big 12 of the season on Saturday with his ability to play through pain.
Willis scored a career-high 21 points, just four days after spraining his left ankle in a loss to Kansas State.
Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie said Willis was diligent all week in rehabbing his ankle and preparing himself to start.
“He’s in there trying to get ready to play,” Gillispie said, “and that shows his commitment and shows he’s ready to play. He played his best game probably ever as a collegian.”
Willis, who was also instrumental in his defense of Oklahoma star Steven Pledger (four points), said he tried to block the pain from his mind.
“Whatever I got to do to help my team win, that’s exactly what I’m going to do,” he said. “If I had worried about my ankle, then I couldn’t defend like I was supposed to. So the biggest thing is I just have it in my mind that whatever I can do for the team, then that’s good.”
Much of Tech coach Billy Gillispie’s postgame press conference following Tech’s 65-47 win over Oklahoma centered on his appreciation for the team’s fans.
An announced crowd of 9,386 watched the Red Raiders snap an 11-game losing streak, and Gillispie said he was overwhelmed by the support the team has received from the community.
The Tech coach was choked up as he expressed his appreciation.
“I’m an emotional guy because I really do appreciate commitment, and I really do appreciate loyalty,” Gillispie said. “I think those are the things that make us the best.
“For our fans to be as loyal and as committed as they have, when our results have not been anything like any of us want, I could feel them enjoying that game almost as much as the players and the coaches.”
Tech forward Robert Lewandowski, who scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half, said the crowd’s energy was a big factor in the team’s victory.
“Any other fan base would have turned their back on us,” Lewandowski said, “but we live in a great town, a great sports town. We love all the fans.”
Compiled by Nick Kosmider