Bulldogs Gut Out 73-62 OT Win
Feb. 25, 2016
RUSTON – For a third time this season, Louisiana Tech fans got to see free basketball with a game going into overtime inside the Thomas Assembly Center.
And for a third time they left happy as the Bulldogs gutted out a 73-62 victory over North Texas on Thursday night with the help of the 3,092 fans in attendance.
LA Tech (21-7, 10-5 C-USA) was Erik McCree-less for the second time and not having the team’s leading rebounder and second leading scorer was hurting in a big way.
Down two with 20 seconds to go, the ‘Dogs caught a break with North Texas (11-17, 6-9 C-USA) missing the front end of a one-and-one. Alex Hamilton responded with a driving layup to tie the game up for an eighth time and send it into overtime at 59-59.
In the extra period there was no offensive struggle that had existed for the first 40 minutes. Dayon Griffin opened the frame with a three-pointer and the team never looked back in reeling off 10 straight points and ultimately allowing just one field on defense.
“I think the guys really gutted it out,” said Eric Konkol who now has the most wins by a first-year head coach in program history. “It wasn’t a pretty game. I thought we were lacking the energy and intensity level we typically play with, but I thought the guys found a way in moments playing different defenses to just find a way. We have asked them all year long to be flexible, find a way and that is what they did tonight.”
With McCree out, the Mean Green made a conscience effort of limiting the main scoring threat in Hamilton. They succeeded for the first 20 minutes in holding the senior to just four points which helped give the visitors a 24-23 edge at intermission.
NT seemed to have all of the momentum, holding a five-point advantage with 11:20 to go, but Hamilton hit a stepback three-pointer to beat the shot clock. Coupled with that was a new 1-3-1 zone on defense by the ‘Dogs and the momentum was starting to shift.
“We were looking for something we thought could stall people a little bit and protect the middle of the floor because there are times in the game it seems like teams are really trying to drive, put their head down and go,” Konkol said. “I thought with our length, our wings, our height, and those types of guys, that this particular 1-3-1 could help us and I thought it helped us tonight.”
The Bulldogs went on a 13-2 run, not allowing a single field goal on defense for almost a four-minute stretch. The Mean Green punched back though, eventually finding success against the zone to help produce a 12-2 run and a four-point lead with 3:41 to play.
Despite missing two crucial free throws with 57 seconds to go, Hamilton refused to lose in what was his second to last game in the TAC. On top of hitting the game-tying layup, he had the assist to Griffin for the open three to start OT followed by four points of his own and another assist to Merrill Holden who knocked down a 10-foot jumper.
Hamilton finished with a game-high 19 points to go along with eight rebounds. He also had eight assists which bumped him into fifth on the all-time career assists list, making him the only Bulldog in program history to rank in the top five in career points, assists and steals.
Meanwhile, Holden registered his first career double-double with 13 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. The St. Petersburg duo of Griffin and Jacobi Boykins combined for 30 points to help the team shoot 45.1 percent from the field for the game (23-51).
North Texas connected on 24-of-65 for 36.9 percent shooting and was led by Deckie Johnson who had a game-high 20 points and Jeremy Combs who finished with 15 points and 18 boards (15 of which came in the first half).
Next up is the final home game of the season for LA Tech. It will take place on Saturday, Feb. 27 with the Bulldogs taking on the Rice Owls at 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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