Bulldogs Knock Off Blue Raiders, 73-62

Feb. 7, 2015

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MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Louisiana Tech sophomore Erik McCree quickly knocked down his first two shot attempts to open up the game, but then went down with an injury.

Stepping up in his place was true freshman Xavian Stapleton who scored a team-high 18 points to go along with four steals as the Bulldogs came into the Murphy Center and defeated the Blue Raiders, 73-62, on Saturday night.

Stapleton logged a whopping 30 minutes of action in tying his career-high in points. Three other Bulldogs joined him in double figures - Alex Hamilton (16), Raheem Appleby (15) and Michale Kyser (12). Kyser added a game-high 11 boards to notch his second double-double of the season.

LA Tech (18-6, 9-2 C-USA) won their fifth straight over Middle Tennessee (13-11, 6-5 C-USA) and also handed the Blue Raiders just their seventh home loss in the past four seasons.

"This was one of the biggest wins that we have had, obviously this year, but in the past few years," head coach Michael White said in rebounding from the loss at UAB. "This, probably along with UTEP, are probably our biggest wins of the year because we understand the amount of success Kermit [Davis] and the Middle Tennessee program have had in this building and how hard it is to score against one of the elite mid-major defenses."

LA Tech had the lead for the better part of the first half, but MT's Reggie Upshaw kept the home team alive. Upshaw hit three three-pointers to register 13 of his team's first 19 points to knot the game up at 19-19, with 5:31 left to play in the first half.

For the rest of the stanza though it was all Bulldogs. They forced three turnovers and went on a 14-2 run to take a 33-21 lead at the break.

Stapleton had just five first half points, but got the second stanza off on the right foot by knocking down an open three from the corner. He also connected on a hard drive base line to give the Bulldogs their largest lead of the game, 42-27, with 16:24 remaining in the game.

"I am really, really proud [of Xavian Stapleton]," White said. "Xavian, just like all of our guys, still have room for improvement. He made some mistakes, but he made a lot of positive plays to help us win. If he did not play the way he did, we would not have come in here and won."

However, MT chipped away at the deficit thanks to the three-ball. They hit four three-pointers over the next six minutes of action one by JaQuel Richmond to pull them to within five, 52-47.

That was as close as they would get though as LA Tech pushed it back out to a double-digit lead with help from free throws as the team closed out the game 9-of-10 from the charity striple.

The Bulldogs were extremely efficient on offense, shooting 50 percent (25-of-50) from the field. On defense, the battle of the boards was a crucial element, especially coming off a game where they were outrebounded by 15. Tonight, the `Dogs were outrebounded by only two.

Middle Tennessee's Upshaw finished with a game-high 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting. The rest of the Blue Raiders were just 16-of-46 from the field.

With tonight's C-USA results, the Bulldogs are now in a three-way tie for first place with five games to go. LA Tech continues league action on Thursday, Feb. 12 when they face Florida Atlantic at 6:30 p.m. in the Thomas Assembly Center.

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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