Jan. 1, 2013
RUSTON -- Freshman guard Alex Hamilton came off the bench to score a career-high 20 points, including a perfect 10-of-10 from the free throw line, as he drove Louisiana Tech (11-3, 2-0) to an 81-72 victory over New Mexico State (6-8, 0-2) on New Years Eve night inside the Thomas Assembly Center.
The last game of 2012 for the Bulldogs was their third straight win and their first win over the Aggies since Feb. 26, 2009, having lost their previous seven to the defending WAC Champions and preseason conference favorites.
"I thought we came out with a ton of energy and enthusiasm," said head coach Michael White. "We played with a bunch of confidence. This game was really important to us, them having beaten us three times last year. New Mexico State is a very solid program. Coach Menzies and his staff do a tremendous job. We were geared up and our kids were fighting and were excited about the opportunity."
LA Tech typically leans on their pressuring defense to win games, but tonight it was their hot shooting on offense that allowed them to remain perfect at home this season.
"We won it in a different way than we have with other games," said White. "We really struggled to guard and to defend them. Winning it with our offense is normally not what we do, but we hit some shots from deep and we converted at the foul line."
Foul trouble hit the Bulldogs early on in the contest, and coach White quickly went to his bench for Hamilton and guard Kenyon McNeail.
Hamilton proceeded to make five straight points for the Bulldogs to give them an 18-13 edge with 13:02 remaining in the half.
McNeail continued his hot shooting, playing every minute the rest of the half and scoring 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting with all four makes being three-pointers.
"Kenyon has been really good as of late," said White. "The last month or so he has been really solid for us, probably as consistent a player as anyone on our team, offensively and defensively. He was tremendous again tonight."
The duo combined for almost half of the team's season-high 49 first half points to take a 10-point lead into the locker room.
At the break, the Bulldogs had taken 10 more shots than the Aggies, but New Mexico State cashed in from the free throw going 15-of-22 to stay within striking distance.
Hamilton continued to attack the rim with success in the second half despite New Mexico State's height advantage.
After the Aggies pulled to within two points of the Bulldogs, Hamilton delivered seven straight points to extend the lead back out to 70-65 with nine minutes to play.
"[Alex Hamilton] was really aggressive getting to the rim, drawing fouls, getting in the paint and getting other guys shots," said White. "He is a big guard that when he gets into the paint he can make a lot of things happen. He is very versatile. He's got great hands and good length, and he made some big plays for us."
New Mexico State continued to drive the ball to the paint and draw contact, putting them at the free throw a total of 37 times, but the hot shooting of the Bulldogs was too much for the Aggies to overcome.
Guard Brandon Gibson drained his fifth three-pointer, a career-high, with 3:05 left in the game to push the Bulldog lead to 79-70. All of his 15 points came on his 5-of-5 shooting from behind the arc.
LA Tech switched to a zone defense down the stretch and the move proved successful as they were able to get enough stops and add more bodies inside the paint to keep the Aggies at bay.
Guard Cordarius Johnson also got into the hot shooting, making two three-pointers and ending the night as the fourth Bulldog player in double digits with 10 points. As a team, the Bulldogs shot 11-of-22 from three-point range and 14-of-17 from the foul line.
Forward Michale Kyser tied a season-high with five blocks and also led LA Tech with six rebounds.
New Mexico State was led by Daniel Mullings who scored 21 points to lead all scorers.
Louisiana Tech will return to action this Saturday on Jan. 5 as they travel to take on UT Arlington in their first road WAC game of the season in a 7 p.m. contest.
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