Bulldogs Defeats Nevada to Advance to First WAC Championship Game
March 10, 2012
LAS VEGAS - Three Louisiana Tech players scored in double-figures, led by senior Trevor Gaskins' 21 points, as the Bulldogs defeated Nevada 78-73 Friday night at the Orleans Arena. With the victory, Tech advances to the Western Athletic Conference Tournament Finals for the first time in program history.
LA Tech improved to 18-15 while the Wolf Pack drops to 26-6.
The Bulldogs fell behind 55-53 after three free throws on two consecutive Nevada possessions with over 11 minutes to play in the game. A layup from freshman Kenneth Smith tied the contest on Tech's next possession after falling behind.
Nevada took their final lead of the game after Malik Story made the last of his five three-pointers with 2:53 to play to put the Wolf Pack up 71-69. The Bulldogs responded with a 7-0 run over the next 2:41 as freshman Kenneth Smith went 3-for-4 at the charity stripe.
Jerry Evans Jr. cut Tech's advantage to three with 12 second on the clock with a layup after senior Romario Souza blocked a three-point attempt from Kevin Panzer. Gaskins was fouled after receiving the inbound pass and nailed his two free throw attempts to seal the victory for the Bulldogs.
Nevada went on a 10-3 run to tie the contest with 13:26 on the clock. Tech responded with a 18-3 run of their own to go up 34-19, the Bulldogs' largest lead of the game, with over eight minutes left in the period that was capped off by a three-pointer from sophomore Kenyon McNeail.
Deonte Burton, the WAC Player of the Year, made his lone three-point field goal with 21 seconds on the clock to cut the Bulldog's lead to 42-39 at halftime.
Along with Gaskins, Appleby and Souza also reached double-figures in scoring with 17 and 16 points, respectively. Souza went a perfect 6-for-6 at the free throw line and Appleby made 6-of-8 attempts at the charity stripe as well.
Smith scored nine points, all of which came in the second half, and broke Tech's record for steals by a freshman with three steals in the contest. He surpassed Gerrod Henderson's mark of 40 that was set in the 1998-99 season.
Gaskins and Smith both grabbed a team-high five rebounds while Gaskins dished out four assists.
The Bulldogs shot 53.1 percent (26-49) from the field including 66.7 percent (16-24) in the first half. They also made seven of their first eight three-point attempts and went 18-for-22 (81.8 percent) at the free throw line.
Dario Hunt recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, nine of which came on the offensive end, and Story scored 21 points for the Wolf Pack. Olek Czyz and Evans also added 18 and 10 points, respectively.
Burton dished out a game-high five assists while Hunt blocked two shots.
Nevada made 41.3 percent (26-63) of the shots including 39.1 percent (9-23) from beyond the arc. The Wolf Pack did outrebound LA Tech 37-27 including 19-5 on the offensive glass.
Louisiana Tech will face New Mexico State Saturday night at 11 p.m. CT in the WAC Tournament Championship Game at the Orleans Arena. Dave Nitz, "The Voice of the Bulldogs" and Malcolm Butler will call the action on KXKZ 107.5 FM and KJVC 92.7 FM beginning with the pregame show at 10:30 p.m. CT.
The game will be televised on ESPN2 with Sean Farnham and David Flemming calling the action.
Twitter users can follow @LATechPPongratz for game updates as well.