Bulldog Defense Flexes Muscle in Win over Miners

Jan. 8, 2015

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EL PASO, Texas - Last year in the Don Haskins Center, Louisiana Tech and UTEP were in an offensive battle with the Miners coming out on top.

On Thursday night, it was the other way around on both accounts as the Bulldogs flexed their muscle on defense holding the Miners to just 12 second half points on their way to a 58-45 road win in front of 8,653 in attendance.

LA Tech (11-4, 2-0 C-USA) was as flawless as you can be on defense with UTEP (10-5, 2-1 C-USA) making just five second half field goals and outrebounding the bigger Miners roster by two.

"I thought we had a great team effort," head coach Michael White said. "It takes a team effort to slow down an offense that is that potent and a player in Vince Hunter who is that good and he still got pretty good numbers. It was just a great performance defensively for us and on the glass as well. We have definitely grown in those two areas and it was actually a mediocre night for us offensively, but it was good enough to help us get the win."

On offense, it was a near flawless performance by Raheem Appleby who seemed to be on a mission given the fact that he missed last year's game against UTEP due to an ankle injury.

The senior guard was face-guarded for almost the entire night, but still went 9-of-12 from the field for a game-high 22 points to along with five rebounds and a handful of 50-50 balls won with diving attempts on the floor.

"[Raheem Appleby] was incredible," White said. "In my opinion, that is the best game of his career because he was so efficient offensively and he has not made a defensive mistake in a couple of weeks probably. He has given every ounce of effort that he can give physically. He is also leading. I cannot ask anymore of Raheem Appleby right now."

Appleby was on fire to start the game, going a perfect 5-of-5 in the first half. One of the made field goals was on a contested jumper which gave the `Dogs a 31-22 advantage with three minutes left in the stanza.

With LA Tech doing such a great job in the paint, UTEP then went to the perimeter for its scoring. The home team hit three straight three-pointers while going on an 11-2 run to tie the game up, 33-33, at halftime. The final three came off of a banked-in shot from C.J. Cooper with a second left.

In the second half, the Bulldogs clamped down on defense and was efficient just enough on offense. UTEP scored only one point in the final five-plus minutes of the game.

"Both our starters and our bench have embraced the fact that [defensive focus] has got to be goal number one," White said. "It has got to be each one of our guys biggest job when they are between the lines. They have rallied around the defensive side of things to a whole other level the last three or four weeks."

LA Tech ended up outscoring its opponent, 30-14, in the paint while also grabbing 10 offensive rebounds.

The victory marked only the second win ever by the Bulldogs on the road against the Miners. The last victory came nearly 13 years ago when both teams were conference foes in the Western Athletic Conference.

Erik McCree and Alex Hamilton joined Appleby in double digit points with 13 and 11, respectively. Kenneth Smith had another terrific effort at the point, registering eight assists with only one turnover.

The Bulldogs ended up shooting 24-of-58 from the field for 41 percent and made all five of their free throw attempts.

Vince Hunter recorded his 10th double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds, both team-highs.

LA Tech concludes its three-game road swing on Saturday when they face UTSA in San Antonio at 2 p.m.

For all the latest in Bulldog Basketball, follow them on Twitter (@LATechHoops), Instagram (@LATechHoops) and Facebook (LATechMBB) or visit the official website at LATechSports.com.




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