March 22, 2014
ATHENS, Georgia - There was a good ole fashioned dog show at Stegeman Coliseum Saturday morning.
And the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs won "Best of Show" as head coach Mike White's team put on exactly that ... a show.
LA Tech raced out to a 26-point first half lead and withstood a furious Georgia rally as the Louisiana-based Bulldogs defeated UGA, 79-71, in the second round of the National Invitational Tournament.
With the win, Tech (29-7) tied the program record with 29 victories, matching the total set by the 1984-85 team which advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. It also advances to the quarterfinal round and will play the winner of Monday night's Georgetown/Florida State game.
"Obviously, it was a very good win for our program, being able to win our second in such a prestigious tournament," said White. "Just getting to the postseason was nice and to beat a very good Iona team at home to start a postseason run. To be able to back that up with a very solid win at an SEC school is terrific for the continuing building of Louisiana Tech basketball.
"I think Georgia is a very, very good team, the second place team in the SEC. To come in here and beat them in their building is significant for this team and for this program."
The Bulldogs were simply awesome early. Tech came out of the gates causing havoc defensively and executing its offense to precision as the Bulldogs jumped out to an 18-2 lead just five minutes into the contest.
"It was part of the game plan," said guard Alex Hamilton. "We talked about it all week, coming out with our pressure and try to force Georgia to turn the ball over. That was a big key to the game, to get a couple of turnovers and score points off of the turnovers. That gave us a little run and we were able to hit shots. It just led to a good lead."
Alex Hamilton scored the first basket of the game on a driving layup and then finished off the game-opening 8-0 run with a steal and a dunk with 17:29 to play. Nemanja Djurisic finally got Georgia (20-14) on the scoreboard, but LA Tech reeled of 10 straight points, including back-to-back three-pointers by Hamilton and Cordarius Johnson.
While the Stegeman Coliseum crowd of 3,692 did everything in their power to get their Georgia Bulldogs back into the game, Tech wouldn't cooperate.
With Tech holding onto a 22-9 advantage with 12 minutes to play in the first half, senior guard Kenyon McNeail put his name into the record books hitting consecutive three-pointers to push the lead to 28-9. The first of the trifectas gave McNeail 220 for his career, surpassing Lonnie Cooper for first place.
McNeail and Co. continued the barrage from downtown as a Chris Anderson three-pointer and a Johnson layup with 7:27 to play in the first half gave Tech a 39-13 lead, its biggest of the game. Tech hit 16 of its first 24 field goals of the game, including 7-of-8 from three-point land.
The Bulldogs held a 46-27 halftime advantage of a Georgia team that was 15-2 at home this season.
"[The bench] was phenomenal," said White. "Early in the game, for Cordarius Johnson to come in and make shots and got it going, it was arguably his best game of his senior year. And Kenyon McNeail's play was similar to what it has been probably since Christmas. He has been as consistent a player as anyone on our team.
"For these seniors to prolong their senior year and play as well as they are playing late to finish their career is really satisfying to see as a coach. Chris Anderson was arguably the best player on the floor. I thought offensively and defensively, using his athleticism and his elite quickness, getting by guys and getting loose balls, he was phenomenal today."
The final 20 minutes of play was a dog fight. Tech managed to maintain its 20-point lead on a three-pointer by Cordarius Johnson with 13:23 to play in the game.
However, Georgia wouldn't bow out quietly. A tip-in by Brandon Morris with 6:52 to play in the game cut the Tech lead down to single digits at 60-51. After Tech used a 9-5 run capped by a Kenneth Smith three-pointer with 2:40 to play, it appeared the Bulldogs were safe.
That wasn't the case. Georgia turned up the pressure and when J.J. Frazier hit a three-pointer with 19 seconds to play the lead was down to 75-71. However, a pair of free throws by Hamilton and a break-away dunk by Kyser sealed the win for LA Tech.
Hamilton led Tech with 20 points while Anderson added 18 points, Johnson 16 points and McNeail 14 points. Kyser scored six points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked seven shots in the win.
Frazier led Georgia with 15 points.
LA Tech's quarterfinal matchup against the winner of Georgetown and Florida State will be Wednesday night at either 6 or 8 p.m. CT and will be televised on ESPN2. If Georgetown wins, the Bulldogs will host the Hoyas. If Florida State wins, Tech will travel to Tallahassee for the second straight year.
For complete coverage of Bulldog Basketball, please follow @LATechHoops on Twitter or visit the official home of Louisiana Tech Athletics at www.LATechSports.com.