On to the Big 12

Javarez Willis led the Red Raiders in scoring on Friday night with 15 points in Tech's win finishing off the non-conference schedule.

The Red Raider basketball team started off the year with a different leading scorer every night.

Then Jordan Tolbert emerged as not only the team's leading scorer, but an offensive weapon who has to be accounted for on every play.

On Friday night at the United Spirit Arena, Texas Tech (7-5) may have seen the emergence of two scoring threats in their offensive attack in their 62-54 victory over the Lions of Southeastern Louisiana (5-6).

Jaye Crockett started off the season on the bench and nursing an injury. He did not crack the starting line-up until Tuesday night, but on Friday night, he reminded every Red Raider fan why they were so excited about him coming into the season.

Crockett used his athleticism to work his way into the paint on his way to 10 first half points and three rebounds.

"Every game I go out there and I try to play my best, and last game I didn't do too well and coach talked to me and watched film," he said, "and I just went out there and tried to change all those mistakes and hustle a little more."

Javarez Willis is one of three returners from last years' team, along with Jaye Crockett, and he is proving to be one of the most consistent players on the offense and defense for Texas Tech.

He led the way on the night for the Red Raiders with 15 points while going 8-for-8 from the free throw line using his finesse as a compliment to the power of Crockett and Lewandowski in the second half.

With the first half Crockett had, the Lions had to turn their attention to him which took some of the pressure off the team's leading scorer Jordan Tolbert.

Tolbert took advantage of the help from Crockett as he added 11 points of his own in the first half.

Tech head coach Billy Gillispie said Crockett was a force defensively the whole night and was by far the best player on Friday.

"Best game by far so far this year," he said. "He was the guy that bailed us out tonight and I thought he played really well until he got tired toward the end of the game, but I thought he played great."

Crockett's offensive output was key to the success for the Red Raiders in the first half, but the foul trouble for both teams proved to be a catalyst to keep the game close on both sides.

Senior Robert Lewandowski was called for two early fouls in the half taking him out of the game forcing Crockett to step into the spotlight.

But the Red Raiders were not alone in foul trouble as the Lions senior center Elgin Bailey was called for two quick fouls himself, which forced Southeastern Louisiana's head coach Jim Yarbrough to take him out of the game.

Yarbrough has been the head coach at Southeastern Louisiana for seven years and he said trying to find consistency on the court is essential to his team's season.

"He's a great presence for us right now, and for him, I just want him to have a positive last year of college where he grows," he said. "He's still trying to learn what we do."

Gillispie said on Tuesday Bailey would be the toughest center they would see all year and early on he was causing problems for the freshman from Fort Worth.

Bailey is a transfer from Mississippi State who was named a team captain for the Bulldogs prior to the 2010-2011 season.

In the previous two games for the Lions, Southeastern faced South Carolina and Arkansas where Bailey nearly averaged a double-double.

In the second half, Bailey started on the floor but was called for another quick foul and was taken out soon after.

The Red Raiders worked efficiently with Bailey out as they started off the half on a 7-0 run and held the Lions without a field goal for the first four minutes of the half helping them jump out to a 37-26 lead.

But when Bailey came back, Tolbert started to get into foul trouble. After a time out, Tolbert picked up his fourth foul of the game sending Tech's leading scorer to the bench.

Gillispie said Tolbert did not play as well as he needed to and he needs to get better come Big 12 play.

"They kind of forced him away from the basket. He's not afraid because Jordan's a very tough guy," he said. "He's not soft, but tonight he didn't play nearly as aggressively as he needed to, so hopefully he learned something in the kind of match-up that he had with him tonight."

When Bailey was on the floor in the second half, Tolbert was virtually ineffective. He was held scoreless for the rest of the game. A lot of this was due to his foul trouble, but he was shut down by the Lions Center.

Then Lewandowski stepped up.

The senior center for the Red Raiders was in foul trouble for the majority of the half, but when Tolbert went to the bench, Lewandowski was matched up with Bailey and held him without a field goal until he himself fouled out late in the game.

At that point in the game, Tech was just trying to hold on to the lead. Lewandowski had fouled out while Crockett and Tolbert each had four fouls of their own.

The Red Raiders ended the game with 28 fouls, tying their season high of 28 against Stephen F. Austin.

Gillispie said his team got a taste of Big 12 play on Friday and they will have to be ready for more of it on January 4.

"I thought they were much more physical than us, and we fouled more than them, so that doesn't add up to a good solution normally," he said. "Had they made some free throws and made some shots, it would have been an ugly night for us."

Then a late three by Southeastern Freshman Onochie Ochie made Tech fans sweat as the shot brought the Lions within eight points with just under a minute to play.

But the lead proved to be too much to overcome as Tech made seven of the last eight free throws they took in the last two minutes en route to a 62-54 victory.

Tolbert finished the night with 11 points, the first time in five games he has been held under 20. Jaye Crockett had 10 of his own to go with eight rebounds.

The Red Raiders get back to action when they head to Stillwater, OK on January 4 for the opening match-up of Big 12 play with the Cowboys of Oklahoma State.

"We are excited about going into conference," Gillispie said. "We know it's going to be a very challenging deal, an 18 game stretch, one game 18 times, and it's very difficult to win a game in conference, it always has been."

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