Dec. 12, 2013
RUSTON - For a game that was destined to be a track meet, it sure helped that Louisiana Tech had a guy nicknamed Speedy on its team.
Despite going out of the game for a period of time due to cramps, point guard Kenneth Smith delivered a double-double performance with 12 points and a season-high 12 assists, along with four steals, to outrace the Demons, 93-71, on Wednesday night in front of 3,547 fans inside the Thomas Assembly Center.
"There are a lot of things to learn from but we played well enough to beat a good team," said head coach Michael White. "We withstood the track meet and I thought our guys showed some physical toughness. We had two or three guys that had to log some pretty heavy minutes.
"I thought overall for us, especially offensively as you look over the stats, Raheem Appleby and Kenneth Smith were both very good for us. [NSU] had a great one-two punch tonight, but overall it was a good win against a good team, a terrific program, so we obviously feel pretty good about it."
Both teams came into the contest with top 25 ranked offenses, averaging over 85 points per game, but it was LA Tech (8-2) who sprinted out to an early double-digit lead.
The Bulldogs held Northwestern State (3-5) scoreless for four minutes while making an 11-0 run to have an early 15-4 advantage. The run was capped by a bounce pass in transition from Kenyon McNeail to Raheem Appleby who finished the play with a running floater.
Appleby continued his scoring surge in the first half, recording nine of the team's first 17 points.
The Bulldogs maintained a double-digit lead, 21-9, due mainly to their defense who forced eight turnovers in the first eight minutes of action.
The turnover bug then hit LA Tech, and so did the foul trouble, which allowed NSU to pull to within four, 28-24, with 5:46 left in the half after a made jumper by DeQuan Hicks.
Appleby came alive again though as the junior poured in 11 more points before the break, including a running floater with 10 seconds on the clock to give the `Dogs a 45-34 halftime edge.
"I was pleased," said White about the offensive production. "When they were in zone we had some things we tried to execute and we did not do a very good job. That is kind of us. We give a lot of effort on the defensive end in our press.
"I thought we took two or three ill-advised shots, quick threes in the first half, where we were in a really good rhythm attacking the rim and I thought we settled a little bit. Other than that I was pleased. To shoot that percentage, we will take it every night and hopefully we continue to get that."
The Jacksonville, Ark. native had 20 at halftime, the most scored in a single half since he netted 21 in the second half at Chattanooga last season.
Both teams combined for 25 turnovers in the first stanza.
Smith made a layup in transition with 13:10 to go when he went down with cramps in both legs so Alex Hamilton was given the ball to run at point. The Bulldogs did not miss a beat as Hamilton scored seven straight points to increase their advantage to 72-52.
Two made free throws from Cordarius Johnson made it 76-55 with 9:40 to play in the game, but no lead was safe against the Demons who can put up points in a short amount of time.
NSU went on 12-2 run over the next four minutes to crawl to within 11. However, LA Tech responded with a 6-0 run of its own to put the game out of reach.
Smith's 12th assist, the most by a Conference USA player in a game this season, came on one of many alley-oop passes on the night. This one went to Michale Kyser who flushed home the two-handed slam with 1:16 remaining.
Despite foul trouble, Kyser finished just shy of a double-double himself with nine points and 10 rebounds.
Appleby tallied a season-high 28 points as the Bulldogs shot 58.5 percent from the field for the game and racked up 58 points in the paint compared to 32 for the Demons.
NSU was led by Jalan West who also registered 28 points. Hicks added 19 for the Demons who managed to shoot just 39.1 percent from the field.
LA Tech returns to action on Saturday at 1 p.m. when they will take on the No. 7 ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys in Oklahoma City, Okla. as part of the All-College Classic.
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