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February 11, 2012It had been a long time coming and the Red Raiders notched their first Big 12 Conference win under first-year head coach Billy Gillispie Saturday with a 65-47 win against Oklahoma.
The Sooners put in the guys in the back corner of the bench into the game for the final two minutes and at each deadball afterward you could see the Red Raiders smiling, high fiving and hugging. Once the players relaxed, the fans could too.
The 11-game losing streak to begin Big 12 play was over.
"When you have 9,386 people here like tonight after we've had the results that we've had --" Gillispie said just before getting choked up a second time in his postgame press conference. "I'm an emotional guy because I really appreciate commitment and I really appreciate loyalty. I think those are the things that make you the best so for our fans to be as committed and as loyal as they have when our results have not been anything like any of us want.
"I could feel them really enjoying that game almost as much as the players and the coaches. They were pulling so hard for us and they have been. I've never lost 11 games in a row, but never been anywhere where we would have that kind of crowd with that much care for the team when you've had the results where we've had."
The 2011-2012 basketball season has been a rough one, but Texas Tech's first win in 12 Big 12 games didn't feel like the first and probably not the last especially if the Red Raiders can put up the numbers they did against the Sooners.
"When you think about being young people and you have things not going your way for a while and you hang in there like you do and you keep on fighting like they have," Gillispie said. "No matter how many mistakes they make they keep on fighting and that says a lot about the characters in that locker room. So I'm very proud of them."
Tech (8-16, 1-11) turned the ball over just seven times compared to the Sooners' 16 turnovers and shot 25-of-58 versus Oklahoma's 18-of-55 from the field. Those are the stats of the game.
A group of essentially six players in Bean Willis, Robert Lewandowski Ty Nurse, Luke Adams, Jordan Tolbert and Jaye Crockett played all but four of the minutes and did almost everything right. They cut and moved, they passed the ball with ease and caught the ball in the paint.
Willis led the team with a game-high 21 points on a bad ankle, shooting eight-of-12 from the field. Lewandowski came alive in the second half for 16 points and six boards. Nurse and Tolbert each had nine points while Nurse recorded seven assists and two steals.
Gillispie joked he pretended he couldn't hear his starters when they asked for breaks down the stretch.
The end result was a big win for a team that was really needed it.
"Just a whole bunch of screaming and jumping in the locker room. We're always a family, but it's the most I've touched my teammates," Willis said as the postgame media room broke up in laughter. "I hugged them, I hugged my coach, it just felt like a family bond inside of that locker room. It was crazy. A lot of touching."
Tech is going to have another tough game Tuesday against Texas A&M in what is the final meeting between the two schools in any major sports in Lubbock.
"It's been a while since we've won and especially a big one like this," Lewandowski said. "The biggest thing I think we need to do is celebrate and just kind of relax and really enjoy the moment and savor a taste of it. But tomorrow in practice is the next big step. It doesn't start Tuesday, it really starts tomorrow."