Bulldogs Defend Glass, Home Court in 69-56 Win
Jan. 29, 2015
RUSTON - Louisiana Tech came into Thursday night knowing that in order to extend its home winning streak to 23, they had to defend the glass against the best rebounding team in Conference USA in Western Kentucky.
The Bulldogs did just that with a plus-seven rebounding margin and got double-figure scoring from four players in a 69-56 win over the Hilltoppers in front of 4,029 fans inside the Thomas Assembly Center.
With the victory, LA Tech (16-5, 7-1 C-USA) also moved into a tie for first place in the league standings with WKU (14-6, 7-1 C-USA) who had its nine-game winning streak come to an end.
"The biggest key to the victory was defending the glass," head coach Michael White said. "We did a way better job than we have done all year. We gave up three offensive rebounds to a big, tough and physical team. They have the ability to throw three or four front court guys at you. They have great length and girth. They are a very good team.
"I was really proud of the physical effort not only by our big men in Michale [Kyser], Erik [McCree] and Merrill [Holden] but also our guards. I thought our three starting guards all stepped up and really defended our glass to finish stops. Our turnover margin was good again tonight. Our guards were able to get out in space and do what they do best."
Alex Hamilton and Raheem Appleby came into tonight's contest having scored exactly 333 total points. They left Karl Malone Court still with the same point total after each tallied a game-high 17 points.
For Hamilton, the biggest shot came when the Bulldogs had their 18-point lead sliced down to six with 8:18 left to go in the game. The team was shooting 2-of-16 from beyond the arc until the junior calmly sank a three from the wing to stymie the Hilltopper run. After a defensive stop, Speedy netted a three as well pushed the advantage back to double digits.
"Those were big and got our crowd back involved," White said. "We were searching for a couple of minutes. We challenged our guys at a couple of timeouts and told them that Western Kentucky was capable of coming from behind, regardless of the double-digit deficit. Obviously, they are very capable and have dangerous three-point shooters. We had to get our edge back. Sometimes a couple of makes will do that."
The lead was still in single digits, 59-51, with four minutes left to play when Appleby provided his shot heard `round Ruston. Kenneth Smith dished one of his season-high 12 assists to Appleby in the corner who then drove base line and threw down a vicious one-handed dunk while also getting fouled.
The crowd erupted and the senior completed the three-point play at the free throw line and ultimately sealed the 22nd consecutive home conference victory dating back over three years.
McCree opened the game with back-to-back jumpers and was followed by a Hamilton three-pointer in transition and a steal turned into a fast break dunk which forced a WKU timeout.
After turning the ball over a few times, Western Kentucky started to turnover LA Tech. The Hilltoppers scored 11 points off turnovers to grab a 16-13 advantage, but the seesaw went back to the Bulldogs who hit three straight shots to retake a 19-16 lead.
WKU was held scoreless for six minutes and LA Tech built a 24-16 lead. The Hilltoppers responded with five straight points, but LA Tech responded with five of their own from a corner three by Appleby and a fast break runner off the glass to beat the buzzer by Hamilton which gave the home team a 31-23 halftime advantage.
The Bulldogs carried over that momentum into the second half by scoring the first 10 points to make it a 15-0 run, grabbing a 41-23 lead.
LA Tech came into the game having had just one double-double all season. Tonight they doubled that with two - Speedy registered 11 points and 12 assists while Erik McCree had 14 points and a career-high 12 rebounds.
The Bulldogs copied the plus-seven rebounding margin by having a plus-seven turnover margin. They forced 16 turnovers which led to 22 points.
As a team, they shot 29-of-62 from the field for 46.8 percent.
WKU had three players in double figures led by T.J. Price who notched a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. George Fant and DJ Clayton added 15 and 10, respectively.
In less than 48 hours, LA Tech will battle Marshall in the TAC. Tipoff is set for 4:30 p.m. and will be broadcast live on the American Sports Network.
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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