Going Big: For the first time in 11 games, Billy Gillispie went with a big starting lineup. In addition to guards Javarez Willis and DeShon Minnis (himself a "biggie"), the Red Raiders started six-foot-ten Robert Lewandowski and six-foot-seven forwards Jordan Tolbert and Jaye Crockett. Additionally, sub-six-footers Luke Adams and Kevin Wagner combined for only 14 minutes of play.
The results were mixed. Tech lost the rebounding battle to Bakersfield by three, but committed 13 turnovers, which is actually a pretty good number for the Red Raiders. And of course, Tech won by 16 points over a respectable team.
Gillispie has stated his preference for big teams, and if the Red Raiders are ever to win the Big 12, size in the rotation will be a significant part of it all.
We shall see if Gillispie keeps to the big starting lineup for a while. My guess is you'll see the same starting five against Southeast Louisiana Friday night, with the possibility of six-foot-six forward Terran Petteway starting in Crockett's place.
Petteway and Crockett: Speaking of Petteway and Crockett, here are two forwards who went rather in opposite directions against the Road Runners.
Crockett just never really got off the schnide. He missed a dunk, gave up an offensive rebound, and committed a turnover early on, which precipitated a quick trip to the bench. Crockett got back in the game, but was more a warm body than a contributor.
Terran Petteway, on the other hand, was huge. Jordan Tolbert was clearly the game's MVP, but Petteway was Tech's MVP for the second half.
As the game wound down and the Red Raiders were trying desperately to polish of Bakersfield while the Road Runners were frantically trying to steal the game at the end, Petteway was the answer.
He rattled in a three-pointer with seven minutes to play to give Tech its first 10-point lead. A minute later he dropped in another trifecta after Bakersfield had cut the lead to six. Then, with four minutes to play and the Red Raiders clinging to a seven-point advantage, Petteway banged in another jumper. Without Petteway, this one would have been a nail-biter.
In summary, Crockett is clearly lacking confidence right now, while Petteway coolly and calmly goes about his business. Tech will need both of these guys in Big 12 play.
Tolbert's Team: As mentioned in a previous article, it has become clear that the Red Raiders will go as far as freshman Jordan Tolbert can carry them, provided that Billie Gillispie commits to running everything through Tolbert. Well it looks like Gillispie has made that commitment.
The Red Raiders pounded the ball into Tolbert early, in the middle of the game, and they went to him late. Lewandowski and Tolbert functioned together better than at any point in the season, running a very effective high-low post and a two-man game.
The results were terrific. Tolbert connected on 10 of 12 field goal attempts and tied his career high of 27 points.
This will be Tech's modus operandi from here on out.
Unsung Hero: Freshman guard DeShon Minnis didn't score a point against Bakersfield, but was a major contributor nevertheless. He dished out five assists in only 15 minutes of play, while committing only two turnovers. Perhaps more important, he was Tech's best perimeter defender.
If Minnis can consistently play with this sort of focus and discipline, I like him in the rotation and even the starting lineup.