Defense Keys Win for Bulldogs over Owls

Feb. 12, 2015

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RUSTON - Louisiana Tech has been ranked in the top 10 nationally in turnover margin each of the past three seasons.

On Thursday night, that category favored the Bulldogs once again as they forced 16 by Florida Atlantic and only committed five themselves which led to a 65-54 victory in front of 3,412 fans inside the Thomas Assembly Center.

The win for LA Tech (19-6, 10-2 C-USA) extended its home winning streak to 25 games and also kept them in first place in the Conference USA standings with six games to go.

"The turnover margin was 16-5, which is great," head coach Michael White said. "Any time you only have five turnovers in a conference game, it is a positive, especially with us playing fast and pushing the break. They had an 11-16 assist-to-turnover ratio. It was an odd game in that I thought we did a few pretty good things offensively, only having five turnovers and shooting 48 percent."

Unlike the turnover margin, one thing that was very different for the Bulldogs was the starting lineup as two Bulldogs - Xavian Stapleton and Merrill Holden - each made their first career start and each made an immediate impact on the floor by scoring on offensive putbacks to give the home team an early 4-0 lead.

FAU (8-14, 1-10 C-USA) settled in after that though, putting together a 10-2 run to take a four-point lead. From there, the Bulldog defense kicked it into another gear. It helped fuel a 23-4 run to give the Bulldogs a 29-14 lead with 6:37 left in the first stanza.

The eight-minute stretch featured five forced turnovers and eight straight made field goals, capped by a three-pointer from Kenneth Smith.

LA Tech ended up holding the double-digit advantage going into the locker room, 36-25, with a cumulative effort on offense from Smith, Erik McCree and Alex Hamilton who each had seven points.

The defense remained stellar into the second stanza as well. LA Tech took its largest lead of the game, 51-34, on a made layup by Hamilton with 11:15 to play while limiting the Owls to just three made field goals.

The visiting team still had one more run left in them to try to snap a five-game losing skid. Three three-pointers, including back-to-back makes by Jackson Trapp, sparked a 12-1 run to cut the deficit to six for FAU.

After Trapp made the corner three, McCree responded with a big three-pointer of his own to stymy the run and push the lead back to nine with eight minutes still to go.

The Owls hit a jumper on their next possession, but it was McCree again who answered the bell with a jumper to counter. Two defensive stops and a turnover later, the Bulldogs extended the lead back out to double digits after a layup from Smith and a running floater by Raheem Appleby.

"[Florida Atlantic] is unique in its approach and I thought they did a really good job with personnel and made it very hard for our guards, especially Raheem Appleby," White said. "Defensively, we were pretty good, especially for 30 of the 40 minutes. We had some stretches there where we got a little bit comfortable with the lead. We have to try and avoid that moving forward. It is all part of the process."

LA Tech shot 27-of-56 (48.2 percent) from the field with four players scoring in double figures - McCree (15), Hamilton (15), Smith (10) and Michale Kyser (10).

FAU was limited to just 38.8 percent shooting as a team. Trapp finished with a game-high 17 points. Justin Raffington added a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.

LA Tech returns to the court on Saturday, Feb. 14 when they host FIU. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.

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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