Bulldogs Balanced in 73-63 Win

Feb. 11, 2016

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RUSTON – With Louisiana Tech greats Karl Malone, Kenneth Smith and Michale Kyser sitting courtside, the Bulldogs fed off their presence and the 5,000 other fans inside the Thomas Assembly Center in what was a 73-63 victory over Middle Tennessee on Thursday night.

For the third straight home game, the LA Tech (18-6, 7-4 C-USA) victory had a lot to do with balance as all five of its starters scored in double figures.

Erik McCree did his best Malone impression by notching his seventh double-double of the season with a team-high 18 points and 12 rebounds. Alex Hamilton was a lot like Speedy, picking up a double-double himself with 12 points and a season-tying 11 assists.

Jacobi Boykins and Dayon Griffin were both models of efficiency, scoring 14 points. Lastly, there was Merrill Holden who registered 12 points.

“I thought we set the tone in the first half and we were able to keep that going in the second with some moments here and there,” head coach Eric Konkol said. “[Middle Tennessee] is a very good offensive team and they certainly made some plays, but I thought our guys were really motivated to have a good defensive game.

“We constantly talk about playing together and that if we can get 16 assists, we are in really good shape. We got 17 tonight. We turned it over too many times but I thought those early turnovers gave us good experience to then attack their pressure better as the game went on. Then the guys just really looked for each other, found great shots for each other, and I thought that was big.”

The first half was a defensive battle, but the ‘Dogs were able to have the upper hand with a 27-24 edge at intermission. The two teams combined to force 19 turnovers during the first 20 minutes of action.

Many of the turnovers for LA Tech came after Middle Tennessee (17-7, 9-3 C-USA) switched from a man-to-man defense to a zone. Part of the halftime adjustments was putting players in different spots to create more spacing.

It worked as the Bulldogs opened the second stanza on a 22-8 run, capped off by a dish from Hamilton to Griffin who drained the three-pointer for a 49-32 lead with 11:29 to play.

The Blue Raiders began pushing the tempo on offense and found a rhythm themselves. The visitors clawed back, ultimately pulling to within seven at 70-63 with 1:15 left to go but would not make another point as the ‘Dogs won their sixth straight in the series.

LA Tech was very efficient from two-point range, scoring 38 points in the paint. Despite taking a season-low 48 field goals attempts, the team shot 54.2 percent.

The Bulldog defense held MT to 27-of-68 shooting for 39.7 percent. The Blue Raiders were led by Darnell Harris who had a game-high 20 points and Reggie Upshaw who recorded 13 points and 12 rebounds.

The win was extra meaningful for Hamilton as it was No. 101 for his career, tying him with Speedy, Kyser and Raheem Appleby as the all-time winningest Bulldog in program history.

LA Tech returns to action on Saturday, Feb. 13 at 1 p.m. when they take on first place UAB. It is the annual “Red Out” game and will be broadcast live on the FOX 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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