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November 12, 2011The Red Raiders shot well in their 90-85 win against Troy Friday evening at the United Spirit Arena, but they still won ugly.
Although proud, the game was too ugly for head coach Billy Gillispie's taste.
"It was a great game for us," Gillispie said. "What a great crowd to open it up, they were fantastic for us. Our guys gave everyone a heart attack for everyone that was in there. Some of the craziest plays I've ever seen, not thinking. But we're getting tougher, they're getting more of an edge to them. They're understanding how important it is to play in certain situations and we just have to become more consistent.
"Very, very, very proud. We're improving. Still taking baby steps, no question about that. We didn't win a National Championship tonight, but I'm very proud for these guys to be able to win a game tonight."
Texas Tech shot 33-of-54 from the field and 10-of-19 from 3-point land thanks to point guard Ty Nurse's six-of-nine performance, but that's about as pretty as the team stats got.
The Red Raiders (1-0) still struggled with turnovers, although to a much lesser extent than they did in their two exhibition games, and they helped the Trojans (0-1) stay in the game with ill-advised fouls. Tech also struggled at times to beat Troy's press defense in the back half of the court.
But a win is a win and Tech took a big first step toward becoming the team it wants to be by season's end with a truly gritty performance against a competitive opponent.
"It's a great start to the season," Nurse, a junior college transfer who had a game-high 29 points in his first Division I start, said. "We have a bunch of new guys and a new coach and it's definitely good to get this win under our belt and now we just move forward to our next game."
There are definitely things that Tech can improve on.
The Red Raiders won the defensive rebound battle 26 rebounds to 17 rebounds, but Tech had a pretty good height advantage and Troy put up 85 shots. Offensively, Tech allowed Troy to get 14 of their own rebounds while retrieving just seven of their own missed shots.
Troy also made just 18-of-32 free throw attempts and lost by five points.
There also is promise.
Aside from Nurse, Tech had two other players with double-digit figures in sophomore guard Javarez Willis's 15 points and Deshon Minnis' 12 points. Those totals combined with solid efforts from other freshmen like forward Jordan Tolbert's eight points, guard small forward Terran Petteway's seven points and guard Toddrick Gotcher's seven points.
The hope is Tech's lone senior, forward Robert Lewandowski, can have a bigger impact against North Texas on Wednesday than his eight points and seven rebounds against Troy.
"Like I told him in the locker room, if he had scored 15 and we lost he wouldn't have been very happy because that's the kind of person he is," Gillispie said. "He didn't play his best game. He was probably more nervous than a lot of the freshmen tonight. He tried too hard. He'll play better next time.
"We want him on the court, he was on the court at the end, and we need him on the court. He calms everyone down, he gives me a great deal of confidence and I am so happy to have the opportunity to coach him."
Lewandoski didn't appear too shaken up about a performance that didn't meet expectations. After all, Tech got the win and there is a full season ahead of him.
A full season for everyone to improve on a win to start the campaign.
"To win," Lewandowski said when asked to assess how the team played tonight. "That's about the most positive thing we can take out of it. I thank the Lord very night just for the opportunity to play, we have a lot of good pieces. Obviously, Ty -- it seems like every day, every game, there's a new player that surprises us. Ty was the surprise tonight.
"I think there's a lot we can take out of it, but it's a win. We're going to celebrate it tonight and get back to work tomorrow."
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