Feb. 8, 2014
RUSTON - Kenneth Smith has always been a pass first, pass second, pass third and then shoot fourth kind of a point guard.
Tonight he did both as the junior netted 17 points to go along with 10 assists for his third career double-double in leading Louisiana Tech to its 20th win of the season, a 90-75 decision over North Texas, in front of 5,123 in the Thomas Assembly Center on Saturday night.
A few of those assists were compliments of Kenyon McNeail who recorded a game-high 18 points, including a match of Speedy's four three-pointers, that all came in the second half to help the `Dogs pull away.
Tonight's victory marked back-to-back 20-win seasons for LA Tech (20-5, 8-2 C-USA), something that has not been done since the early 90's.
"Twenty wins is always a milestone that coaches, teams and programs talk about," said head coach Michael White. "Back-to-back 20 win seasons are what good programs do regularly. We have obviously accomplished something the real good programs out there do and hopefully we can keep it going.
"North Texas was terrific in the first half. I thought their zone was very effective. We missed some three pointers early which led to a little bit of second guessing and we really struggled for the most part of the first half. I thought we came out and really set the tone early for the second half. We played very hard and got 20 deflections in the second half, which is a good indicator of how hard you are playing."
Speedy continues to rank second in the country in assists per game (7.5) and his first assist in the game came quickly as he split the zone at the top of the key off two screens and fed Michale Kyser for the alley-oop slam.
His second assist came even quicker as Anderson then grabbed a steal on the next play and was the recipient of an alley-oop dunk himself from Speedy.
However, North Texas (11-12, 2-7 C-USA) made the first run of the night, a 9-0 run giving them a 16-8 lead and forcing a LA Tech timeout. The Mean Green's lead expanded to as much as nine.
The Bulldogs were struggling from the field to try to overtake the lead, including 0-for-6 from three until Speedy drained one from the left wing to cut the deficit down to three, 32-29, with 3:35 to go in the first stanza.
NT then countered with back-to-back jumpers by Chris Jones to go back up by seven. However, LA Tech was determined to go into halftime with the lead and it was the three-ball that got them there.
Smith went long distance for another triple and then the Bulldogs held for the last shot of the half which turned into a corner three from Jaron Johnson, giving LA Tech a 37-36 halftime advantage.
"We thought we would see a lot of zone tonight and we saw 36 or 37 minutes of zone until the very end," said White. "When you are not making jump shots against a zone, you can start becoming tentative and you start losing confidence, overall in your offensive attack. When Speedy and Kenyon stepped up and those three's, you could just see it in our body language, we felt better about ourselves offensively."
The point guard was not done from beyond the arc. He opened up the second stanza with a three, and then Michale Kyer's third rejection of the game resulted in Smith's fourth three on the other end, contributing to a 14-2 run that gave the `Dogs a 56-42 edge.
Kyser and the defense were stellar during the run, allowing only one field goal on eight attempts and forcing three turnovers.
It was from the foul line where the lead would grow for the Bulldogs, helped by four makes from Kenyon McNeail off technical fouls on NT's head coach Tony Benford and center Kelvin Gaines.
Unlike Thursday night's game where LA Tech finished just 22-of-40, tonight they finished with a similar number of attempts but many more makes (32-of-42) with 24 second half points coming from the charity stripe.
For good measure though, the Bulldogs continued be on fire from three. After going 3-of-10 in the first stanza, seven of their 11 second half field goals were three-pointers.
Alex Hamilton had a quiet 14 points with most of his damage coming from drawing fouls and getting to the foul line.
Kyser continued his strong performance which carried over from the Tulsa game, finishing with 13 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Anderson became the fifth Bulldog in double figures, 12 points, with a late three-ball of his own.
North Texas ended up shooting 50 percent from the field. Jordan Williams notched a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Mean Green.
LA Tech concludes its three-game home stand on Saturday, Feb. 15 versus Rice. The contest tips off at approximately 7 p.m. as the second part of a doubleheader.
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