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Cyclone men blow past Red Raiders 76-52

Nick Kosmider, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas –

There have been stretches in games this season, some longer than others, where Texas Tech has seemed capable of competing in the Big 12 Conference.

But a 76-52 loss to Iowa State on Saturday at United Spirit Arena once again proved that winning games in one of the nation’s strongest leagues won’t come until the young team can clear a major hurdle — one that only experience can prepare a group to leap.

“We haven’t responded well to adversity,” Tech coach Billy Gillispie said. “We don’t do it in practice and we don’t do it in games.”

Tech trailed Iowa State by just three, 19-16, with 8:49 left in the first half. By the time the Red Raiders scored again — four minutes and 40 seconds later — Iowa State had built a 10-point lead and seized momentum it would not relinquish.

Tech scored only seven points in the final nine minutes of the opening period and, with Iowa State shooting 57 percent from the floor in the second half, that was the only breathing room the Cyclones needed to breeze to their second straight win.

Similar sequences have plagued the Red Raiders all season, when a series of turnovers, a string of missed shots or a quick run by an opponent is all it takes to put Tech away.

“There’s going to be parts in games where things don’t go well, because all the teams we are playing are very good,” Gillispie said, “so you have to be resilient enough and tough enough in the mind to say, ‘OK, we’ve got to dig in. We turned it over, but we’re going to get a stop.’ And that’s exactly what we’re not doing.”

Texas Tech (7-11, 0-6 in Big 12) is off to its worst conference start since losing its first nine league games in 2000.

Despite the loss, Saturday’s game featured an encouraging development. Senior forward Robert Lewandowski, who had struggled mightily during the first five games of conference play, tied a career high with 20 points, playing with an elevated level of aggressiveness the team has missed.

“I’m supposed to accentuate the positive, but I had been stinking it up pretty bad,” said Lewandowski, whose strong all-around game included six rebounds, four assists, four blocks to just one turnover. “My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball where I could be effective.”

Lewandowski scored six early points, and his layup with 13:54 left in the first half gave Tech an 11-10 lead. But that would be the last time Iowa State trailed, as the Red Raiders stalled offensively after finding some rhythm in the early minutes.

“It’s pretty frustrating,” Lewandowski said. “It seems like we put ourselves in these real good spots to win games and we just kind of fall apart. It’s a mental thing, and it’s a physical thing, but we’ve just got to stay smart and keep pushing.

“We’re right there. We’re in every single game we play. It’s just got to change.”

Tech trailed 35-23 at halftime and cut the deficit to 10 points following a 3-point play by Clark Lammert (nine points) with 17:28 left in the game. But that was as close as the Red Raiders would get.

Iowa State didn’t make it easy for Tech to climb back. Tyrus McGee led the Cyclones with 20 points, including a 6-of-11 performance from 3-point range.

“He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said of McGee. “He’s got a very nice rhythm with his shot, stepping into it without any doubt. He hit shots in the first half when not many other guys were.”

Iowa State forward Royce White entered the game averaging almost 14 points per contest, and though he tallied just seven against Tech, his floor vision (six assists) and strength inside (nine rebounds) made him a “mismatch nightmare,” Gillispie said.

“You put a guard on him and he’s hard to guard because he’s too big,” the Tech coach said. “You put a big guy on him, he’s too quick and he can really pass the ball. They do a great job in their schemes of putting guys around him and spacing the floor, and those guys make shots, so it’s a very difficult team to guard.”

 

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