Bulldogs Advance to C-USA Semifinals with 70-64 Win

March 13, 2015

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Erik McCree scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and Alex Hamilton hit four big free throws in the final 45 seconds to lift Louisiana Tech to a 70-64 win over Rice in the quarterfinals of the 2015 Conference USA Tournament at Legacy Arena late Thursday night.

With the victory, the Bulldogs advance to a semifinal match-up against the host UAB Blazers Friday in a game that is set to tipoff at 5:30 p.m. and will be televised on CBS Sports Network.

"It is obviously nice to advance," head coach Michael White said. "We have given ourselves an opportunity to play the host team tomorrow in a huge game. I thought we got off to a really good start, mentally and physically. I thought we had a lot of bounce to us and showed how eager we were to play. Then I thought we probably got a little too comfortable with a lead. Defensively in the second half was not our best effort.

Rice has shown over the last few weeks how good they are offensively. Fortunately, we caused 17 turnovers and we only turned the ball over six times. But late in the game, we could not find a way to get a stop. Fortunately we hit some free throws and took care of the basketball."

The win was No. 25 of the season, marking the third straight season LA Tech (25-7) has won at least 25 games, a first in program history. No. 25 certainly did not come easy.

The `Dogs led 65-53 with just under four minutes to play in the game before Rice (12-19) scored nine straight points as Seth Gearhart's layup with 1:22 left cut the Bulldogs advantage to 65-62. On Tech's ensuing possession, Hamilton missed a driving layup and the ball was knocked out of bounds - ruled to go off a Rice player.

After a three-minute delay as officials reviewed the play, LA Tech was finally awarded the basketball with 44 seconds to go. Rice immediately fouled Hamilton off the in-bounds play and the junior hit both free throws to up the advantage to five points.

Gearhart then scored on a driving layup for the Owls with 32 seconds to go, once again closing the gap to three points. Rice then fouled Kenneth Smith, who hit 1-of-2 free throws as Tech led 68-64.

Rice's Max Guercy responded with a driving layup on his own but the basket was called off as Raheem Appleby took a charge on the play, giving the ball back to the Bulldogs.

Hamilton was fouled once again with 17 seconds to play, hitting both free throws once again sending Tech to the 70-64 win.

Early in the game, it appeared as if Tech would blow the game open as the Bulldogs raced out to a 24-9 advantage just 10 minutes into the contest thanks in large part to McCree.

The forward had six points and five rebounds in the first three minutes of action, being well on his way to what was his third double-double of the season. However, LA Tech experienced a six-minute scoring drought and led only 35-25 at the break.

The Bulldogs matched their largest lead of the game, 46-31, after back-to-back steals turned into back-to-back lay-ins engineered by Speedy.

Hamilton ended the game with 15 points, including 9-of-10 from the free throw line, and Raheem Appleby added 11 points. Michale Kyser added 10 points and seven rebounds and Smith stuffed the stat sheet with nine points, seven rebounds, six assists and five steals.

Gearhart led Rice with 16 points.

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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