November 15, 2011

UNT will push Tech basketball

Texas Tech's competition against the Sunbelt Conference continues Wednesday at 7 p.m. when the Red Raiders take on North Texas at the United Spirit Arena.

If Troy wasn't enough of a test, the Red Raiders are now running up against the most successful team in the Sunbelt on a consistent basis, including a big win in overtime against last year's senior-laden Tech squad.

"They put a good whipping on us last year, I guess," first-year head coach Billy Gillispie said. "They bring a really nice roster, it's a Big 12 roster, and coach (Johnny) Jones has done a great job over the years. Six straight seasons where they've won 20 or more games, been to the tournament title game four years in a row and they've got they're best group in talent. They'll be a major challenge for us."

But Tech should be a challenge for the Mean Green as well.

North Texas is fielding a team that is starting two freshmen with one game of experience under their belt -- a 81-52 win against Saint Gregory. In total, there are eight upperclassmen and five freshmen on the North Texas squad.

Freshman guard Jordan Williams is off to a good start with 16 points in his first college game after leading Dallas (Texas) Kimball to a state championship last year. Opposite Williams is Chris Jones who had eight points and 12 rebounds in North Texas' opening win.

Then those upperclassmen.

Kedrick Hogans should be a tough challenge on the inside with his 6-foot-7, 235-pound frame while forwards Jacob Holmen and Alonzo Edwards have been pretty solid players for the Mean Green in the past.

Those North Texas guys bring in a matchup Gillispie is concerned about.

"I'd rather they never came in here," Gillispie said with a grin. "To be honest with you, they're too good. It'll be a good challenge for us. We're taking some baby steps, we're taking some steps backwards as we go. We have to start handling the ball better, thinking better, those kinds of things."

The Red Raiders (1-0) couldn't shake Troy in Tech's 90-85 victory Friday. Mental mistakes and ill-advised fouls helped the Trojans hang around until the very end.

The same brand of basketball will get the Red Raiders defeated against North Texas.

"All we did was make shots against a zone that didn't guard you much," Gillispie said. "If you really look at the execution part of our game, it wasn't very good. We had a couple of out of bounds plays that got us four or six points that were beneficial to us.

"We didn't guard the way we needed to, didn't transition the way we needed to, and definitely didn't attack the way we needed to. We turned the ball over 19 times against pretty much a zone defense for the entire game and that's not the way it should be."

There could be 'veteran' help on the way for the Red Raiders in the form of sophomore forward Jaye Crockett. But then there might not be.

As first reported by RedRaiderSports.com's Chris Level, both Crockett and freshman Kevin Wagner, a Lubbock native, are back on the practice floor, but questionable against the Mean Green.

"I don't know yet," Gillispie said. "It's too early to know. They've been back a little bit, not totally. They do make a difference for us and we'd like to have them back as soon as we can because we definitely need them. Both of them bring something big to the table, but I don't know how it's going to work out so far."

The safest bet for Tech is to simply play their game as well as they know how. If current leading scorer and Midland Junior College transfer Ty Nurse is any indication, it's coming along.

"I think he's starting to understand how to play," Gillispie said. "But he's still got a long ways to go."

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