LA Tech Heads to the Finals with an 88-70 Victory
March 14, 2014
EL PASO, Texas - It was a collective effort like it has been all year for Louisiana Tech.
The No. 1 seed Bulldogs had five players score in double figures to help the team advance to the Conference USA Championship game with an 88-70 victory over the No. 4 seed Southern Miss on Friday night inside the Don Haskins Center.
LA Tech (27-6) knocked down 12 three-pointers and scored 56 second half points to pull away from USM (27-6). With the win, the Bulldogs will face No. 2 Tulsa on Saturday morning at 10:30 p.m. CT in game televised on CBS.
A big reason why five Bulldogs were able to score at least 13 points apiece was because of the passing ability of Kenneth Smith. Smith dished out 10 assists and also added 16 points of his own to record his fourth career double-double, a day after he scored zero in the quarterfinal game.
Another reason for the high-scoring total was the `Dogs pulling down 18 offensive rebounds against a physical USM team and scoring 16 second chance points. They also forced scored 30 points off of 21 committed turnovers by the Golden Eagles.
"Overall it was a very big win for us to be able to advance to the final game in a very competitive tournament in a great league against a really good team," said head coach Michael White. "And to be able to score 88 against, in my opinion, what is one of the best defenses in college basketball is pretty good stuff.
"We made some shots. I thought Kenneth Smith was phenomenal passing the ball and getting guys shots. Chris Anderson did a tremendous job on the interior of the zone. Michale Kyser did some good things in terms of finishing. Alex stepped up and made some shots. Kenyon McNeail did as well. It needed to be that type of effort offensively to beat a really good Southern Miss basketball team."
With just a six-point lead at the break, the `Dogs opened the second stanza with a 19-7 run capped by a midcourt steal from Hamilton who dished it to Kenneth Smith for the corner three, forcing a Southern Miss timeout as LA Tech held a 51-33 lead.
The Golden Eagles responded with a 9-0 run though to cut the deficit to single digits with 13:57 left in the game.
After going scoreless for almost four minutes, Speedy connected for his fourth three-pointer to push the lead to 54-42.
The lead ballooned to 61-42 for the Bulldogs with the help of two free throws by Speedy off a flagrant one call on USM's Craig and a 12-footer from Anderson to follow on the free possession.
Southern Miss would get no closer than 10 the rest of the way.
"At halftime we talked as a staff and we addressed our guys," said White. "We considered complicating some stuff but we thought we were in a good rhythm. In the first 20 minutes we got decent looks and had to tell ourselves this is Southern Miss, this is a little bit different. It's okay to have this many points. And we kept that conviction in terms of what we were doing and how we were attacking it and then once a couple fell for us early in the second half, it gave us a little bit of a confidence boost."
The Bulldogs first 12 points came via the three-pointer, but USM's Michael Craig scored nine straight points to give the Golden Eagles a 15-12 advantage with 9:07 remaining in the first half.
USM snatched the lead back at 21-20 with 3:37 remaining, but that was the last time the opposition had the lead as Hamilton and Kenyon McNeail combined for 12 points over the next three minutes to give the `Dogs a 32-23 edge.
"This is what we talked about all year, getting to the big stage and the championship game and getting a chance to get into the NCAA Tournament," said Hamilton. "Throughout the season it has been a fun ride with my teammates. They have been giving me the ultimate confidence, telling me to step up when I'm not doing something right. We just hold each other accountable."
USM was led by Michael Craig who scored a game-high 19 points and also pulled down nine rebounds despite being in foul trouble much of the game. The Golden Eagles finished on 46.6 percent shooting (27-of-58).
The championship game can be heard live on the LA Tech Sports Network on KXKZ 107.5 FM. The "Voice of the Bulldogs" Dave Nitz will have the call with pregame starting at 10 a.m. CT. Fans can also access live audio of the game via the Internet by subscribing to LA Tech All-Access at www.LATechSports.com.
For complete coverage of Bulldog Basketball, please follow @LATechHoops on Twitter or visit the official home of Louisiana Tech Athletics at www.LATechSports.com.
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