Bulldogs Escape El Paso with Victory
Feb. 10, 2017
EL PASO, Texas -- The Louisiana Tech men's basketball team was eight hours behind schedule getting into El Paso due to a missed flight connection.
They were then 30 minutes late getting to the Don Haskins Center for the game due to it taking an hour in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Despite that, and not scoring in the final 3:45, the Bulldogs still managed to escape with a nail-biting 62-61 road victory over the UTEP Miners on Thursday night.
LA Tech (17-8, 9-3 C-USA) held an eight-point lead when Derric Jean made a free throw at the foul line. UTEP (8-15, 6-5 C-USA) then closed the game out on a 7-0 run and had the last possession, but a strong defensive effort by the Bulldogs forced a long three-point attempt that clanked off the rim and was pulled down by Erik McCree to seal the win.
"It was a big win for us," head coach Eric Konkol said. "It is hard enough just to beat the other team. From travel problems yesterday and today, there were so many reasons to get upset and get discouraged, but I thought the guys were tremendous with their flexibility and their attitudes.
"At halftime, we encouraged our guys. We were defending pretty well. Let's just defend a little better and that is going to turn into more offense. We needed to push the ball. We got it ahead and got some better looks in transition."
The Bulldogs could not find any offensive rhythm in the first half. Fortunately, sophomore Jy'lan Washington came off the bench to knock down two three-pointers and create havoc at the top of the 1-3-1 zone to help the team only be down 30-24 at intermission.
The second stanza did not start much better. A turnover, Jacobi Boykins picking up his third foul and a layup by Matt Willms quickly put the Miners up eight but then it was all Bulldogs for the next six minutes.
Bracey later challenged the 7-foot-1-inch Willms at the rim and won, matching the `Dogs largest lead of the game at 55-45 with 8:33 to play.
In the back of a lot of peoples' minds though was the fact that UTEP had won its previous two games after trailing by double digits in the second half.
The Miners chipped away, taking advantage of missed free throws by LA Tech and second chance points off offensive rebounds. After Jean missed a three-pointer with 17 seconds to go, UTEP got possession after a jump-ball was called, but came up empty on the final possession.
"We did not execute great in the last few minutes of the game," Konkol said. "I thought we were able to defend and get good shots but were not able to knock them down. I am proud of our guys for still being able to find a way.
"On the last possession, we thought they were either going to go inside or allow one of their two guards to make a play. I thought Derric had incredible on-the-ball defense which was enough to take them off rhythm and we got the rebound we needed."
LA Tech handed UTEP its first conference home loss of the season and ended their three-game losing streak. It was also just the third time in program history the Bulldogs won in El Paso (out of 10 tries).
The redshirt senior led the way with a game-high 19 points (4-of-4 from behind the arc) to go along with eight rebounds. Jean was the only other Bulldog in double figures with 12. And Bracey was phenomenal at the point, playing a team-high 36 minutes and registering nine points, a career-high 10 assists and committing just one turnover.
The team ended up shooting 40 percent from the field (21-52) and 42 percent from three-point range (11-26). In the second half alone, they shot 50 percent and hit seven three-pointers.
UTEP was 22-of-48 from the field for 46 percent and 4-of-15 from beyond the arc for 27 percent. The Miners had four players score in double figures, led by Paul Thomas who had a double-double with 11 points and 13 boards.
LA Tech returns to action on Saturday, Feb. 11 when they take on UTSA in San Antonio. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. CT inside the Convocation 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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