Undermanned Bulldogs Drop Heartbreaker in Murfreesboro, 71-61
Jan. 28, 2017
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - An undermanned Louisiana Tech went wire-to-wire with the number one team in the conference on Saturday night in the hostile Monte Hale Arena.
It took 40 minutes but Middle Tennessee was able to escape the motivated Bulldog squad to eke out a 71-61 win in front of 7,805 fans.
"We played very hard," head coach Eric Konkol said. "I thought the guys gave it everything they had. We just really ran out of gas. We just couldn't quite get the stop and you have to give Middle Tennessee credit. They are a good team and they got the ball inside for some good paint shots. They are a very good team and I thought we battled them hard."
Without the help of Jacobi Boykins, who was suspended for the contest, LA Tech faced an uphill battle against the Blue Raiders who entered the game undefeated in Conference USA play. Middle Tennessee controlled the game for the first ten minutes, but once the Bulldogs settled in, the scoring surge began.
Trailing 17-12 with 11 minutes remaining in the first half, Louisiana Tech would score the next 16 points in the game and hold the Blue Raiders scoreless for a near-seven-minute stretch.
The run was capped off by a technical foul charged to Middle Tennessee head coach Kermit Davis and after two free throws from Jalen Harris, LA Tech held an 11-point lead at 28-17.
The technical foul brought the near-8,000 fans back into the action though, giving the Blue Raiders some life and triggering an 11-4 run to end the half.
LA Tech would enter the locker room with a 32-28 lead over the first-place team in the league.
Already without one starter in Boykins, the Bulldogs suffered another tough blow as freshman DaQuan Bracey ("DayDay") was forced to sit for a large chunk of the second half with cramps. Missing two starters, someone needed to step up and both Jy'lan Washington and Jalen Harris answered the call.
The stat sheet won't show it, but Washington gave the Blue Raiders fits on the defensive side of the ball, while Jalen Harris helped fill the scoring void with 15 points. Those 15 points are the most by Harris in a conference game this season.
Harris buried a corner-three with 12:08 remaining in the game to give the Bulldogs a one-point lead. Middle Tennessee wouldn't lead again until a three-pointer by Edward Simpson with 5:33 remaining gave them a three-point lead.
With a raucous crowd behind the Blue Raiders, Louisiana Tech needed an answer badly. Senior Erik McCree, like he's done so many times already this season, responded. McCree buried a three-pointer to knot things up at 57-57 with 3:43 on the clock.
Unfortunately, Louisiana Tech would go scoreless for the next two minutes.
The Bulldogs were out of gas.
"[LA Tech] gave it everything they had," Konkol continued. "We have a very short bench and I told the guys that we have to come together and we have to find a way. We needed some guys to step up and we got really good contributions from several guys. They played very, very hard. We just didn't quite have enough at the end."
The Blue Raiders would outscore LA Tech 14-4 the rest of the way, padded by some late free throws.
Louisiana Tech was led in scoring by McCree's 16 points. Along with Harris' 15, Omar Sherman also added 10 points in the win. Seven separate Bulldogs joined in the scoring and all eight that played grabbed at least one rebound.
The losses to UAB and Middle Tennessee mark the first time this season that Louisiana Tech has dropped back-to-back games.
Louisiana Tech will look to get back in the win column on Thursday, Feb. 2 at the Thomas Assembly Center against WKU. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. CT and the game will be nationally televised by BeIN Sports.
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