Bulldogs Fall in Overtime in C-USA Semifinals
March 13, 2015
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Trailing by 16 points in the second half, Louisiana Tech recorded a furious rally, sending the game into overtime before falling 72-62 to host UAB in the Conference USA Tournament semifinals Friday evening at Legacy Arena.
With the loss, LA Tech (25-8) must now await its postseason fate after winning its third straight regular season conference title. UAB (18-15) advances to Saturday's championship game against Middle Tennessee with the winner earning the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"I talked to the team about how proud I was of their physical and mental effort in the second half," head coach Michael White said. "I thought there were a lot of things we could have done a little bit better in the first half. It was UAB being better than us in the first 20 minutes, but in the second half I do not know if we have played any harder all year. I thought our guys were all over the floor. I thought they left it between the lines and left it all out there. I was really proud of them.
"Overall, UAB was just a tad bit better. It is not over with for this team. We will move forward and take advantage of whatever opportunity presents itself next week. I am really disappointed for my senior class, led by Speedy Smith, that they will not have a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament. It is tough. It is a tough time. We worked our butts off. Speedy deserves to play in the NCAA Tournament. We just did not get it done."
The Bulldogs trailed 47-31 with 15:25 to play in the second half before slowly starting to creep back into the contest behind the play of Conference USA Player of the Year Kenneth Smith, who ended the game with a team-high 13 points.
LA Tech trailed by double digits at 58-47 with just over five minutes to play, but then turned up the defensive pressure holding the Blazers scoreless over the final five minutes and 26 seconds of regulation.
Smith's driving layup with 5:18 to play followed by back-to-back buckets by Alex Hamilton in the next two minutes pulled Tech to within 58-53 with just over three minutes left. Another Smith layup in transition with 1:56 remaining closed the gap to within three.
Following a missed free throw by UAB's Hakeem Baxter on the front end of a one-and-one with 1:18 to play, LA Tech came down the floor and Smith tied the game with a long three-pointer from the top of the key with 1:07 remaining.
Another Blazer turnover, their 12th of the second half, gave the Bulldogs an opportunity to win the game in regulation. Speedy drove to the basket with four seconds left and tossed up an alley-oop pass to Michale Kyser who slammed it home, but the referee whistled a foul on the floor before the pass. On the ensuing in-bounds play, Raheem Appleby missed on a contested jumper at the buzzer sending the game into overtime.
In the extra five minutes, UAB took a 65-60 lead on the strength of three layups and then hit 7-of-10 free throws in the final two minutes to pull away for the win. LA Tech hit just 1-of-11 field goals in the overtime.
"As the leader of this team, I put as much blame on me," Speedy said. "What I told my team was maybe we were supposed to shine a different way. Maybe God has a different plan for us. Last year we were knocked out and we made the best of our opportunity. This year, NIT or whatever, I am going to lead my team. I want to make sure that my team or whoever is watching knows about the group of guys that I play with and who I am."
There were nine lead changes early in the first stanza with Dayon Griffin knocking down a three-pointer from the wing to tie the game up at 20-20 with 7:18 left until halftime. From there though, it was all Blazers for the rest of the half as they pushed their advantage to 36-26 at halftime.
For the game, the `Dogs shot just 37 percent (28-77) from the field, including only 3-of-24 from the three-point line. UAB hit 45 percent (23-51) of its field goals. The Blazers were 21-of-32 from the free throw line compared to only 3-of-7 for the Bulldogs.
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