Arkansas Native Appleby Leads Bulldogs to Nail-biting Win
Dec. 17, 2012
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - It was a homecoming for guard Raheem Appleby, a native of nearby Jacksonville, Ark., as he had a game-high 17 points to lead Louisiana Tech (9-3) to a nail-biting 75-73 win over UALR (8-5) on Monday night at the Jack Stephens Center.
The rematch from a LA Tech victory earlier in the season in Ruston went to the Bulldogs, this time in Little Rock, snapping UALR's seven-game home winning streak.
"We played really well," said head coach Michael White. "I thought we showed a lot of toughness and a lot more maturity. We made better decisions down the stretch. To beat UALR on the road, it feels good."
The Bulldogs got off to a lightning-quick start, taking a 16-7 lead after an offensive rebound and put-back layup by guard Cordarius Johnson to force a Trojans timeout.
UALR would respond and take their first lead of the contest, 26-24 at the 6:17 mark of the first stanza, and would keep the lead going into halftime at 42-39 despite Appleby scoring 14 of his 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
LA Tech shot 44 percent from the field in the first half, but went ice cold from there only shooting 27 percent in the second half. However, it was at the free throw line in the second stanza that the Bulldogs regained the upper hand, going 20-of-25 from the charity strike in what turned into a physical battle between the two teams that resulted in a total of 50 fouls called.
Despite UALR's size advantage, the Bulldogs managed to pull down 12 more rebounds than the Trojans led by forward Michale Kyser who grabbed 10 boards and guard Brandon Gibson who grabbed eight coming off the bench for the first time this season.
"They are a physical team," said White. "I thought Brandon got back to playing, and he responded well. He didn't start, he didn't sulk and when his name was called he went out there and threw his body around. He played with a ton of energy and physicality. He played with a lot of toughness today."
Neither team could gain larger than a six-point lead in the second half.
Guard Kenyon McNeail converted two free throws, making him a perfect 6-for-6 on the night, with 3:03 left in the contest to tie the game at 69-69. On the next offensive possession, guard Brandon Gibson hit McNeail in the corner for a wide-open three to give the Bulldogs a 72-69 lead with 2:17 to go.
With less than 30 seconds remaining and the one-point lead, the LA Tech defense forced a contested jumper by UALR's Taggart Lockhart and came away with the defensive rebound. The Trojans immediately fouled Appleby who made one of two free throws to put the `Dogs up 75-73 with 16.2 seconds remaining.
On the Trojan's last possession, guard James White was fouled and would go to the free throw line for two shots with only 1.2 seconds on the clock. The first attempt rimmed out. UALR then called a timeout to set up a missed free throw on the next attempt to try a tying tip-in.
The Trojans came up with the long rebound, but a desperation jumper over the long outreached hands of Kyser came up short as the Bulldogs notched their first win in Little Rock since 2001.
"In the second half we kicked it up a notch," said White. "We got back to the way we defended in some of our better games this year."
Guard Alex Hamilton chipped in 14 points despite fouling out midway through the second half. Six Bulldog players ended up with at least three personal fouls in the game.
Guards John Gillon and Leroy Isler led the Trojans with 15 and 11 points, respectively.
LA Tech now heads into Christmas break having finished up their non-conference schedule with their next contest coming in 12 days on Dec. 29 at home against the Denver Pioneers at 7 p.m.
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