Bulldogs Run Away with 77-60 Victory over Miners

Feb. 26, 2015

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RUSTON - Louisiana Tech has accomplished a lot of things this season, but the one thing they had not done was have any wire-to-wire wins.

That changed on Thursday night and it was a good time to do it as the Bulldogs led the entire 40 minutes while running away from UTEP in a 77-60 victory in front of 5,126 fans inside the Thomas Assembly Center.

The win kept LA Tech (22-7, 13-3 C-USA) in first place in the league standings, extended the home winning streak to 27 games and ended UTEP's (19-8, 11-4 C-USA) seven-game winning streak coming in.

"It was a huge game," head coach Michael White said. "We played a very good team with a very good coach and a very good staff. One of the exciting things about being in Conference USA is getting to play against UTEP in the Thomas Assembly Center. I thought our crowd was terrific. They were as energetic as they have ever been. They were as much of a factor as they have ever been.

"I thought the conversion of jump shots early on really got us going. Erik McCree carried us offensively and set the tone to where we could get into a pretty good rhythm against one of the better defensive teams year in and year out. I thought we played with poise with the lead. Overall, on the defensive glass it was as good as we have been all year."

After struggling to shoot the basketball in the previous game against Old Dominion, the Bulldogs were much more efficient tonight by going 25-of-55 (46 percent) from the field and 9-of-20 (48 percent) from beyond the arc.

Erik McCree had a lot to do with that as the redshirt sophomore hit his first three shot attempts en route to registering his second career double-double with 14 points and tying his career high with 12 rebounds.

On the other end, the Miners struggled to make shots despite coming into the contest first in the conference in field goal shooting percentage and second in three-point shooting percentage. They could only muster 37 percent shooting from the field and were just 3-of-17 from three.

Raheem Appleby joined in the scoring action early on as he and McCree combined for the `Dogs first 18 points to take their first double-digit lead of the game, 18-8, with 11:34 to go in the first half.

"Thankfully Raheem got a big three in transition because we know how much they key in on him, as everyone does," White said. "UTEP is as good as anyone in the country at taking a guy or two out of it. Getting that open look early was very helpful. The Erik McCree factor was even bigger for us. We knew that Alex and Raheem were not going to get a ton of great looks against this team. Erik's performance was more like he got 23 or 25 points. He was drawing fouls and being very aggressive. I thought he made it to where they had to key in on him."

The Bulldogs went up by as much as 13 points, but the Miners inched their way back into the game despite their leading scorer and rebounder, Vince Hunter, seeing limited action due to foul trouble.

UTEP's Cedrick Lang connected on a layup at the rim with 3:05 to go in the stanza to cut the deficit down to six. Up to this point, points in the paint were keeping the visiting team in the game as 22 of their first 27 points came inside the painted area.

After two made free throws from McCree and one of three three-pointers by Kenneth Smith, LA Tech was able to carry a 38-29 advantage into the locker room.

The lead quickly ballooned to 47-31 after back-to-back slams by Michale Kyser with 15:53 left in the game forced a UTEP timeout.

The Bulldogs were holding on to a 12-point edge with 10:05 to go and then a foul was called on UTEP's Hooper Vint which did not make their head coach Tim Floyd very happy. He ended up getting hit with two technical fouls and got ejected from the game. Appleby calmly sank all four free throws pushing the lead back out to 16.

LA Tech ended up winning the rebounding battle for just the sixth time this season. They outrebounded UTEP, 44-34, which was the biggest rebounding margin of the season.

Appleby and Speedy ended up scoring 17 points apiece to lead the team. The scoring output for Speedy was a new season high.

Lang was the anchor for the Miners, registering a double-double with 18 points and 10 boards.

LA Tech returns to action on Saturday, Feb. 28 when they host UTSA. 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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