Feb. 15, 2014
RUSTON - Louisiana Tech was determined to use the mini-bye this week to come out strong from the tip and take control of the game.
That they did as the Bulldogs stifled Rice for an 85-46 win led by Kenyon McNeail who recorded a game-high 17 points, including the milestone of 1,000 career points, on Saturday night in front of 4,561 fans in the Thomas Assembly Center.
The senior guard became the 36th player to join the exclusive club, all while doing it primarily from a sixth man role over his four-year career.
"He is a thousand point scorer, who for the most part has come off the bench the last three years of his career, after starting his freshman year," said head coach Michael White. "That takes a pretty special kid. Hopefully we are able to finish strong this year, because [winning] is what is most important to Kenyon. It is not about how many shots he gets up, or threes he hits or how many minutes he gets. Kenyon is always about winning and he has always been that way."
McNeail was not the only Bulldog strong on offense. Another senior, Chris Anderson, registered his second career double-double with 16 points and a season-high 12 rebounds in giving LA Tech (21-5, 9-2 C-USA) its 11th straight home victory.
The victory also keeps the `Dogs atop the Conference USA standings, now a three-way tie with UTEP and Middle Tennessee with five league games remaining.
"I thought from the tip we were pretty locked in on both ends," said White. "Chris Anderson got us going on the offensive glass with a couple put backs and we were able to spread out our lead a little bit. I think the other big factor was the turnover margin and our ability to turn Rice over and value the ball ourselves and make sound decisions with the basketball."
As great of an offensive performance it was, the defensive effort was great, if not better. Rice (7-17, 2-9 C-USA) committed 23 turnovers and came into the contest averaging over eight three-pointers a game, but it took their 12th attempt from beyond the arc to fall courtesy of Austin Ramljak.
The Owls' Sean Obi came into the game averaging 11.8 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. He was limited to just six points and four boards.
McNeail's milestone was not the only one celebrated on the LA Tech roster. Kenneth Smith assisted on four straight made field goals to give the `Dogs a 14-4 advantage just over five minutes into the game.
The fourth assist came on a bullet pass to Jaron Johnson who drained a three from the left wing which marked the 500th assist by the junior point guard, a feat only two other Bulldogs have done in the program's history.
He finished with 11 assists to zero turnovers, also giving him the junior record for most in a single season.
Three of those came when the Bulldog lead exploded to 37-17 after McNeail came off the bench and knocked down back-to-back-to-back three-pointers.
After dishing out so many passes, Smith finally took his first shot of the game with only a little over a minute remaining in the first stanza.
It was an NBA-range three-pointer that connected, giving LA Tech a 42-17 halftime advantage and essentially putting the game away halfway in.
It was with 16:34 left in the second stanza that McNeail pump-faked for three and drove through traffic for the layup, giving the Conway, Ark. native the achievement.
Other contributors for the Bulldogs were Isaiah Massey who came off the bench to tie his career-high with 12 points. J. Johnson matched that scoring effort as well to help the home team shoot 28-of-58 (48.3%) from the field.
The Owls did not have a single player in double figures, but were led by Max Guercy and Ralmjak who each had nine points. The perimeter-based team ended with five made three-pointers.
LA Tech hits the road to face East Carolina on Thursday, Feb. 20. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. CT.
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