January 21, 2012

Players step up, but long way to go

Another Big 12 game, another loss for the Red Raiders who fell to Iowa State 76-52 Saturday at the United Spirit Arena.

But for what it's worth, head coach Billy Gillispie said he's still seeing improvement.

Red Raider fans might have too as two post players emerged in their own ways to lead the team in scoring. Senior Robert Lewandowski tied his career high 20 points, added four assists and turned the ball over just once while playing the full 40 minutes. Freshman walk-on Clark Lammert scored nine points and drew two Cyclone fouls in 21 minutes of play.

"I'm supposed to accentuate the positives, but I've been stinking it up pretty bad, especially the last five games," Lewandowski said. "Part of it too is that my teammates did some good ball work to make me effective. I got to the foul line which made things easier. I didn't hit every shot but at the same time I feel comfortable and confident with my shot."

Lewandowski made eight-of-17 shots from the field and hit four-of-five free throws as the Red Raiders fell to 7-11 and 0-6 in Big 12 play.

Gillispie said he went with the players he thought gave the Red Raiders the best chance to win. Terran Petteway started but played just three minutes. Jaye Crcokett played two minutes off the bench.

Forward Jordan Tolbert started but played just 14 minutes while turning the ball over three times. He finished the game with four points.

The result was more minutes for freshmen guards Deshon Minnis and Luke Adams who played 27 minutes and 16 minutes, respectively.

Then there was Lammert.

"He's earned it," Lewandowski interjected while Lammert thought of what to say about Gillispie calling his number more Saturday.

"I guess so. Practice, if you earn it in practice you'll get in the game," Lammert said. "When I went in there I tried to spark the team and tried to give us something good."

"Clark's one of the hardest players, if not the hardest player on the team consistently," Lewadnowski continued on the same topic. "We have some guys that show up on odd days, but Clark shows up and doesn't complain. He's been getting a lot of minutes and still comes in early for scout team. No one asks him to do it and it's not really expected (for him to do that)."

Gillispie has shaken up the starting lineups and minutes through the course of this season. It indicates he believes this team has something he hasn't been able to get out of them.

The Red Raiders are shorthanded this season from an experience standpoint, but they're going to have to play better to get a conference win.

"We knew what we were in for when we started," Gillispie said. "We understand that. We're going to take whatever steps we have to take to make this team better, but also to build a program. I've been around before and it's going to happen. These guys understand that every time we get to play another game is an opportunity. We need to learn how to prepare better and that's my job."

There are still 12 more games to play this season and Gillispie expects the remainder of the schedule to help build the team up with a few wins and also expects this rough season to be a great life lesson for anyone with an investment in the Red Raiders.

"I think it's going to be one of the greatest opportunities for them in a lifetime because you know how hard this is going to be," Gillispie said. "It's been hard right now. It's hard for them and it's hard for us. It's hard for everybody right now, but it's an unbelievable opportunity because when you get through it, you perceiver through it and you have some success it's going to be something that's a lifetime changes.

"'But then you go to the Tournament and as soon as you go to the Tournament it will be even more satisfying… Life is tough and there's going to be a lot of tough patches in your life. They're already going to have something in the bank. 'It ain't going to be tougher than it was that first year in the Big 12. And so we made it because we kept our nose to the grindstone, we played hard, we played smart, we played together, we cared about our teammates, we worked really hard in practice and before you know it we started seeing some success.'"

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