Nov. 27, 2013
ESTERO, Fla. -- It was a back and forth battle as both Louisiana Tech and St. Bonaventure wanted the title of being the inaugural Gulf Coast Showcase champions, but the Bulldogs used stifling defense and clutch free throw shooting down the stretch to take it, 76-72, on Wednesday night inside the Germain Arena.
LA Tech (5-1) has now won five in a row, including four away home, but will proudly be bringing a trophy back to Ruston.
"We won a simulated version of a conference championship having won three games in three days," said head coach Michael White. "Tonight, we had to overcome adversity and a couple of injuries, and the obvious factor of having to overcome fatigue, to win on day three. We are very thankful for the families who were able to make the trip as well as our Bulldog fans.
"St. Bonaventure is an established program that has recently been to the NCAA Tournament and had a guy drafted in the first round. The Atlantic-10 is a terrific conference so this is obviously a big win for our program. Our ultimate goal is to achieve what they have achieved."
St. Bonaventure (5-2) built a 14-7 out of the gates, but Raheem Appleby came off the bench to spark the Bulldog offense.
The junior scored all 11 points, including three three-pointers, in an 11-2 run to give LA Tech the lead back, 18-16.
The Bulldogs hit six three-pointers in the first stanza, but left points at the free throw line, going just 6-14.
The second half did not start according to plan for LA Tech as a turnover by Kenneth Smith led to a three-pointer by the Bonnies Matthew Wright. Coach White immediately called a timeout to regroup.
St. Bonaventure would built another small lead, 47-42, before the `Dogs went on a 7-0 run to regain the advantage, capped off by a three from the wing by Kenyon McNeail.
The pendulum swung back in favor of the Bonnies who took the lead right back, 52-49. It was then Alex Hamilton's turn to take over.
The Florida native used his driving skills to get to the free throw and make six straight. He then used his passing skills to throw an alley-oop pass to Michale Kyser who flushed it home, giving LA Tech a 57-52 advantage.
In typical game fashion, the Bonnies and Bulldogs traded runs with LA Tech coming out with another five-point lead, 65-60, after a corner three from Appleby and then a two-handed slam after a steal and pass from Smith for his seventh assist.
The LA Tech defense clamped down from there and held the Bonnies scoreless for three crucial minutes while the Bulldogs were clutch from the free throw line, going 16-for-17 in the final 10 minutes of the game to seal the championship.
"Offensively down the stretch, our ability to convert from the foul line and Michale Kyser's offensive putbacks were the keys," said White. "Defensively, in the last five minutes, our half-court zone defense was solid and the front line of our press forced a couple of turnovers which we were able to convert into baskets."
Appleby, the tournament MVP, finished with a team-high 23 points. Chris Anderson, who was limited to only three points due to an injury, was also named to the All-Tournament team. He combined for 39 points versus UNCG and UIC.
After scoring zero points off turnovers in the first half, the `Dogs exploded for 20 points off turnovers in the second half. The team finished with a 44.7 (21-47) shooting percentage.
SBU was led by Charlon Kloof who registered a game-high 24 points.
LA Tech returns to action on Sunday, Dec. 1 as they travel to take on Jackson State. The tip is scheduled for 5 p.m.
For complete coverage of LA Tech Men's Basketball, please follow @LATechHoops on Twitter or visit the official home of Louisiana Tech Athletics at www.LATechSports.com.