Conference Tips Off this Saturday for @LATechHoops
Jan. 2, 2015
RUSTON - The quest for a third straight conference regular season title begins Saturday for Louisiana Tech when they travel to Hattiesburg, Mississippi to take on Southern Miss at 7 p.m. inside Reed Green Coliseum.
LA Tech's (9-4) title defense comes with having won back-to-back titles - two years ago in its final season in the Western Athletic Conference and last year in its first season in Conference USA.
The Bulldogs wrapped up non-conference play this past Monday with a 74-52 victory over Southern Arkansas, a game which saw player and team milestones.
"We would like to be sitting here 11-2 or 13-0, that being said, it is hard to win on the road," head coach Michael White said. "We have progressed a lot throughout this non-conference schedule. There is no question we are better than we were a couple months ago. The guys have really worked. Our locker room is together and healthy.
"I know we are halfway home, but if we can make the strides over the next month and a half that we have made over the last month and a half, we can be very competitive in our league."
Junior Alex Hamilton became the 38th member of the 1,000 point club, converting one of his classic three-point plays with 75 seconds remaining in the game. The `Dogs also notched their 20th straight win in the Thomas Assembly Center, the sixth time they have done so in program history.
As much as the Bulldogs would prefer to open conference play at home, something they have done the past three years, they open C-USA with a three-game road swing starting with the heated matchup versus Southern Miss (5-6).
These two teams mirrored each other in many ways last season. Both recorded a remarkable 29 victories en route to being co-champions of C-USA and both reached the NIT quarterfinals.
However, that is where the similarities stop in moving on to this season. LA Tech returned four starters whereas USM returned zero. Michael White is in his fourth year with the Bulldogs whereas Doc Sadler is in his first with the Golden Eagles with the departure of Donny Tyndall to Tennessee.
Like most teams, LA Tech has had a tough time beating USM in Hattiesburg, a place where they are a measly 3-28 all-time. The `Dogs have lost eight straight in Reed Green Coliseum, the last victory coming on Jan. 6, 1972.
They have lost their each of the past two seasons, including a second round NIT loss, but did get revenge in the C-USA Tournament semifinals in El Paso, Texas last season, overpowering USM in an 88-70 victory.
To win for the first time in over 40 years and start C-USA play 1-0, the Bulldogs have will to overcome their road woes, in particular their second half road woes. They are 2-4 on the road but have led at halftime in five of the six games.
LA Tech is led in scoring by Raheem Appleby who is averaging 16.1 points per game. Appleby should be extra motivated, having missed last year's game in Hattiesburg due to an ankle injury.
Hamilton and Erik McCree are the other two Bulldogs in double figures with an average of 15.4 and 11.2 points per game, respectively.
All five of the Golden Eagles' victories have come at home. Their two most productive players are Matt Bingaya and Chip Armelin who average 15.4 and 11.9 points per game, respectively. Bingaya also leads the team in rebounds and steals per game.
This weekend officially opens the 20th men's basketball season for Conference USA. The league will play an 18-game regular season for the first time in their history.
Fans can access live audio of the game via the Internet by subscribing to LA Tech All-Access at LATechSports.com. The contest can be heard live on the LA Tech Sports Network on KXKZ 107.5 FM (Ruston), KJVC 92.7 FM (Mansfield) and KTKC 92.9 FM (Springhill). The "Voice of the Bulldogs" Dave Nitz will call the play-by-play and Jack Thigpen will provide analysis.
Twitter users can also receive live in-game updates by following @LATechHoops.
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