Hamilton, McCree Come Up Big in Big Victory

Feb. 13, 2016

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RUSTON – Senior Alex Hamilton has suited up in a lot of basketball games for Louisiana Tech, made evident on Saturday evening by his 100th consecutive start.

With that he has also been a part of a lot of victories.

So many that the guard became the all-time winningest player in program history with win No. 102 as the Bulldogs poured it on in the second half to complete an 85-76 come-from-behind victory over league-leader UAB in front of 5,213 red out fans inside the Thomas Assembly Center.

Hamilton finished with 20 points, but the record would certainly have not been possible if it were not for his teammates, especially Erik McCree who scored a career-high 33 points with 23 of those coming after intermission when the Bulldogs erupted for 56 points after being down by as much as 10.

The TAC had not seen a scoring performance like that since 2007 with the 33 points tying for the seventh most in the building’s 34-year history.

“I thought our defensive energy was good again in both halves,” head coach Eric Konkol said. “But our offensive rhythm was not there in the first. We just missed some shots that we normally make, expect to make. Then we found the basket more in the second. We got to the rim, got some easy transition plays and then we made a couple three-point shots and made several in a row. That was a big lift.

“[The fans] here are so special. They are really invested in this team, this university. The lift they gave us, you just cannot measure. The first three, the second three, I think there were five in a row; the place was electric. We are so thankful for them. They were a huge part of this victory.”

LA Tech (19-6, 8-4 C-USA) trailed by seven, 36-29 at the midway point, but the ‘Dogs were pretty fortunate to be down only that much.

The first 20 minutes was by no means the best shooting performance by the home team. The Bulldogs missed 23 shots and were 1-of-12 from beyond the arc. There was also the fact that the starting five-man, Merrill Holden, sat the bench for 18 points after picking up two early fouls.

UAB (21-5, 11-2 C-USA) rode the back of Nick Norton’s four threes and a late 9-3 run to end the first half. They picked up exactly where it left off to start the second by getting a three-pointer from Robert Brown and four points by Chris Cokley to have a 43-33 advantage with 17:12 to go.

The Bulldogs started to heat up from there though. Back-to-back layups by Hamilton and McCree in the span of 25 seconds forced a timeout by the Blazers.

The timeout did not cool off LA Tech. It expanded to a 13-3 run to give the Bulldogs a 46-45 edge, their first lead since the nine-minute mark in the first half.

Both teams traded baskets a few times to even the contest up at 52-52. That was until Derric Jean was the recipient of one of Hamilton’s eight assists on the day which the freshman finished off with a two-handed slam.

Up to this point, LA Tech was 1-of-14 from beyond the arc but the three-pointers started to rain as the team hit four straight in only 90 seconds to build its largest lead of the game, 67-56, with 6:30 remaining.

“I have seen it several times,” Konkol said about the offensive runs. “I was really hoping to see it at that point in the second half. is just who we are. We have to embrace that there are going to be little droughts from time to time because we do shoot a lot of threes. We rely on dribble penetration and working off our defense, but I think it is a fun way to play and I think these guys are really thriving that way, too.”

UAB, winners of 18 of its last 19 games, would not go away quietly. The Blazers got their deficit down to four with less than four minutes to play.

After a media timeout, the biggest three-pointer of the ball game by the ‘Dogs came via Hamilton who beat the shot clock with an NBA-range triple. From there, the Bulldogs connected on 9-of-10 from the foul line to seal their 14th win at home this season.

LA Tech wound up shooting 19-of-30 (63.3) from the field in the second stanza and 30-of-64 (46.9) for the entire game. Despite the foul trouble, Merrill Holden was the third Bulldog in double figures with 12 points to go along with a season-high eight boards.

UAB shot 31-of-67 from the field for 46.3 percent. The Blazers had three players score in double digits, led by Norton who had 20.

Next up for LA Tech is a trip to San Antonio on Thursday, Feb. 18 when it will take on UTSA. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. and will be broadcast on the American 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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