Billy Gillispie is in rebuilding mode as the head coach at Texas Tech, and he has to look no farther than Kansas State to see the blueprint for how he wants his program to look in the future.
“(K-State) is a team that just grinds it out,” said Gillispie, who is in his first year as the Red Raiders coach. “Those are the teams I appreciate the most. They play for 40 minutes. I really do respect how they go about just grinding it out. That’s exactly what we will become, hopefully sooner rather than later, but Kansas State has definitely already mastered it.”
Gillispie’s team will get a first-hand look at what he’s talking about when the 22nd-ranked Wildcats (14-4, 3-3) square off against the Red Raiders at 8 p.m. on Wednesday in Lubbock.
Texas Tech is off to a 7-11 start and sits in last place in the Big 12 standings with a 0-6 conference record. But the Red Raiders have been competitive, with the exception of a blowout loss at home against Kansas and a 76-52 loss to Iowa State this past Saturday in Lubbock.
Gillispie, whose team features 10 new players and just one senior, is eager to see how his young team responds following the loss to the Cyclones.
“The test when you do have an inexperienced team is being able to bounce back when you have a very, very disappointing loss like we did on Saturday,” he said. “We weren’t resilient enough; we weren’t tough enough.”
K-State head coach Frank Martin said he expects Texas Tech to come ready to play on Wednesday.
“Talk about being young, holy cow, they might be the youngest team in the country,” Martin said. “Going into their last game at home they had really, really played well. Iowa State went in there and beat them pretty good, but Iowa State is one of the top teams in our league.
“I don’t see us not getting Texas Tech’s best shot. I watched them play Kansas on tape and Kansas kind of gets away from them in the second half but that first half is just a meat-grinder of a game. They rebounded, they guarded, they attacked Kansas. Unfortunately that youth ended up catching up with them but I expect to get the best shot from them on Wednesday.”
The Red Raiders have just one player averaging double figures in scoring. Jordan Tolbert, one of the better freshmen in the Big 12, leads them with 12.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per contest. But Tolbert, a 6-foot-7, 210-pound forward, has nine assists compared to 48 turnovers, and that’s been one of the biggest issues to date for Tech. The Red Raiders have a .68 assist-to-turnover ratio, which ranks 318th out of the 338 Division I teams in the country.
Tech struggles to score, averaging 63.3 points per game, a figure that ranks 265th nationally. For comparative purposes, K-State is averaging 75 points per contest.
The Wildcats, who are coming off a 66-58 win at Oklahoma State on Saturday, will be seeking back-to-back road wins in Big 12 play. Martin said on Monday that he has been pleased with how his team responded this past week and hopes it carries over to Wednesday.
“Our enthusiasm for who we are is getting back to where it needs to be,” he said. “Our young kids are starting to get that enthusiasm and confidence back little by little. That’s our job as coaches, is to make sure those guys don’t lose sight of who we are and how we have to play. I think we as coaches have done a better job of getting those guys back on task and focused in on the good things.”
Gillispie knows all about the challenges youth represents, but the goal is for those young players to grow. Eventually, when that happens, the Tech head coach hopes his team will be producing similar results to what Martin has done in his five seasons as the head coach at K-State.
“I love the way they go about it (at K-State),” Gillispie said. “The thing I admire the most about any player or any team is how hard they play. They definitely do a great job, they’re selfless, very, very tough and consistent with their effort. They put their players in a position to win and you know you’re going to go into a physical battle and that’s what I really do appreciate. They play hard, they play smart and they play together. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do with our program as well.”
No. 22 KANSAS STATE (14-4, 3-3)
Yr. Ht. Ppg. Rpg.
G — Angel Rodriguez Fr. 5-11 6.8 2.2
G — Will Spradling So. 6-2 10.9 2.3
G — Rodney McGruder Jr. 6-4 15.6 5.6
F — Thomas Gipson Fr. 6-7 8.8 5.7
F — Jamar Samuels Sr. 6-7 11.2 6.9
TEXAS TECH (7-11, 0-6)
Yr. Ht. Ppg. Rpg.
G — Javarez Willis So. 5-11 8.9 2.4
G — Ty Nurse Jr. 6-1 8.6 2.0
G — Terran Petteway Fr. 6-6 4.4 2.4
F — Jordan Tolbert Fr. 6-7 12.5 6.3
F — R. Lewandowski Sr. 6-10 7.6 4.1