Feb. 7, 2014
RUSTON - It was two seniors that rose to the occasion on Thursday night in front of 4,935 screaming fans with Michael White t-shirts, hand fans and fat heads all around.
With seven minutes to go and down nine, Kenyon McNeail scored 11 of his 13 points during a 23-7 run and Jaron Johnson netted a career-tying 18 points to lead Louisiana Tech to a 66-61 grind-it-out victory over Tulsa.
This win was unlike any of the other 18 for the Bulldogs. They trailed at halftime and still trailed with five minutes to go, and were winless in such scenarios.
"Winning a game that we won differently than we have won all year is a testament to growth and maturity," said White. "I thought we played with poise and maturity tonight. Often when this team has been down, we have pressed with poor decisions defensively and offensively. We kept plugging and we scored enough, especially off turnovers, to give us a chance against a team that really defended us well and on a night where we struggled offensively, a lot having to do with Tulsa's defensive effort.
"[The crowd] was a huge factor in the game. I am glad we had Tulsa at home because they are very good and we needed our crowd tonight. They were fantastic, especially late in the game when we were on defense, specifically our press. We created some turnovers, our guards played hard, but our crowd helped us create turnovers."
The Golden Hurricane had the advantage for over 27 straight minutes. That was until McNeail connected on a driving layup with 2:52 to go that gave LA Tech (19-5, 7-2 C-USA) the lead for good.
Tulsa (10-12, 5-3 C-USA) had all of the stat edges with points in the paint, points off turnovers, second chance points, fast break points and even bench points.
They were also able to knock down free throw after free throw for much of the game and increased its lead to 50-41 with 6:53 remaining in the contest. It was the exact opposite for LA Tech who ended the game 22-of-40 from the charity stripe.
However, it was free throws that ended up sealing the win as McNeil connected on 5-of-6 during the final minute when the opponent was forced to foul.
"It was ugly there for a while," said White. "We could not convert from three and we had some point blank opportunities, just a few, that we did not convert, especially in the first 30 minutes.
"It was really ugly at the foul line, thank goodness for Kenyon McNeail for really stepping up and making some free throws to really settle us in and get us a lead late and we were fortunate enough to hang on."
With everyone struggling from the field, J. Johnson stepped up for his fifth straight double-digit scoring effort.
The Tyler, Texas native made 5-of-7 from the field, including three of the team's four three-pointers.
Five ties and seven lead changes took place in the first 11 minutes of the game until Tulsa grabbed hold of the game.
The Golden Hurricane, with only two turnovers, went on a 10-0 run and had a 27-18 lead with 6:17 to go that forced a timeout by LA Tech.
The Bulldog defense cranked up for the remainder of the half, allowing just three points, but the offense was only able to muster free throws to trail 30-25 at the break.
It was defense that kept them in the game throughout the second stanza, forcing 10 second half turnovers.
Tulsa's Shaquille Harrison finished with a team-high 14 points.
LA Tech returns to action on Saturday when they host North Texas at 6 p.m.
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