Bulldogs Dominate Rice, 74-64
Jan. 19, 2017
RUSTON, La. - In a battle between two of the top teams in the West, Louisiana Tech (13-6, 5-1 C-USA) dominated from wire-to-wire, defeating Rice (12-7, 2-4 C-USA), 74-64, on Thursday night in the Thomas Assembly Center.
Rice opened the scoring with an early free throw, but an immediate response on a three-point shot from Derric Jean gave Louisiana Tech their first lead of the night at 3-1 and the Bulldogs wouldn't trail again, leading the 40-minute contest for 39 minutes and 10 seconds.
"We played a very good opponent," head coach Eric Konkol commented on Rice. "They are a team that can really score and we feel really good about our effort. Our intensity level on the defensive end was really the key to the game. Our guys executed, they came ready, played extremely well and it turned into some good offense."
One of the stingiest defenses in Conference USA, the Bulldogs backed their reputation. Louisiana Tech held Rice to their second lowest point total on the season, in large part to keeping the Owls' biggest threats in check.
Egor Koulechov and Marcus Evans entered tonight's matchup averaging a combined 39 points per game for Rice, but tonight the two combined to go 7-of-25 from the field for a mere 20 points.
As they've done so well all season, the Bulldogs used their defensive intensity to create opportunities on the other end. Louisiana Tech scored 33 points off of 23 Rice turnovers, becoming just the second team to force 23 or more turnovers against the Owls this season.
"We wanted to be active and really try to keep them guessing," Konkol continued. "There were some individual defensive efforts that happened, we were also switching and being in gaps and the team defense was there tonight. We wanted to make things difficult for both Koulechov and Evans. They are two terrific talents and great scorers. I really thought that was the difference in the game."
The Bulldogs got their first double-digit lead of the first half on a jumper from Eric McCree with 7:11 remaining on the clock. Rice would chip it back to single digits but Omar Sherman would score seven straight by himself, including his first three-pointer of the season, to help give LA Tech their largest lead of the first half at 15.
Louisiana Tech would take a 46-33 lead into the locker room.
Like in the first half, Rice opened the scoring in the second half, this time with a three pointer that cut the Bulldogs lead down to 10. But, LA Tech would score the next eight points, capped by Sherman putting two Owls on a poster, to put the game out of reach for good.
The lead got as large as 24, at 68-44, on a three-pointer from Jy'lan Washington with 8:41 remaining in the half.
Rice would never get the game back to single digits, using a late run to end the game with a ten-point deficit, the 74-64 final.
When the outside shot wouldn't fall, the Bulldogs had no problem pounding it inside as both McCree and Sherman ended the night in double-figures. McCree, who scored a game-high 19 points, also pulled down six rebounds and had four steals. Sherman finished with 12 points and five rebounds.
McCree wasn't the only Bulldog with four steals as Jean also had four steals, to go along with 10 points.
Louisiana Tech was led in rebounding by Jacobi Boykins, who grabbed seven boards, the first time he has led the Bulldogs in that category this season. Four Bulldogs, Boykins, Jean, McCree and Sherman, pulled down multiple offensive rebounds in the win.
Louisiana Tech will be back in action at the Thomas Assembly Center on Saturday night, Jan. 21, at 6 p.m. hosting North Texas.
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