Junior forward Paul Millsap drained a three-pointer at the buzzer to lift Louisiana Tech to a 75-72 win in the Bulldogs' (8-6, 1-0) Western Athletic Conference opener against Boise State in Taco Bell Arena tonight.
Millsap made a lay-up with 3:20 remaining in the game to tie the score at 72, and the score remained tied until the final possession of the game. Boise State (7-5, 0-1 WAC) held the ball on the next to last possession, before the Broncos' Tez Banks missed a jumper in the lane.
Tech junior forward Chad McKenzie rebounded the ball with 25 seconds remaining, and Tech point guard Daevon Haskins held the ball for the final shot.
McKenzie missed a three-pointer from the top of the key, but Millsap chased down the rebound on the right wing and turned to fling in the game winner.
Tech head coach Keith Richard and the Bulldogs were elated with the thrilling victory, but Richard knew his team had fought a battle.
"You could really tell both teams wanted to win this game," Richard said. "It's been a learning process with this team, and we still have some things to learn. Some of our younger guys are finding out how hard it is to win in this conference and how hard it is to win on the road. This was a tough way but a good way to learn some of those lessons."
Millsap finished with his 52nd career double-double with 18 points and 15 rebounds, as the Bulldogs remained unbeaten in WAC openers. Tech is now 5-0 in conference openers and also 5-0 when playing Boise State in the first game of each season.
Millsap also had two assists, two steals and two blocks, and following Millsap in double-digits was senior forward Michael Wilds and senior guard Corey Dean, who had 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Junior guard Marcus Elliott added nine points, and Haskins, McKenzie and junior guard Jerome Richardson each had six points. However, Richard noted that none of those points came easily tonight.
"This was a tough man's game," Richard said. "There were a lot of loose balls, and it was very physical. Both teams played hard and played to win."
Tech scored the first four points of game before Boise State went on 10-2 run, and the Bulldogs made only two of their first nine shots.
Then Tech started to heat up from the field and made nine of their next 13 to pull within one point at 23-24 at the media timeout with 7:45 left in the first half.
Tech didn’t regain lead until Millsap made a lay-up at 6:30 to put the Bulldogs on top 25-24. Boise State’s junior guard Eric Lane stopped Tech’s 7-2 run with a three-pointer to put the Broncos back on top for the last time of the first half at 25-27.
Michael Wilds made a three-pointer to put Tech up 32-29 at 3:52, and the Bulldogs kept the lead until halftime.
The Bulldogs held Boise State junior guard Coby Karl scoreless in the first half. Dean defended Karl for the majority of the half, and the 6-4, 200-pounder from Ruston, La., held Boise State’s leading scorer to only one shot for the half.
Karl entered the game as the only player in the WAC to lead his team in points, rebounds and assists, and was averaging 15.0 points per game. He made five shots in the second half and ended the game with 12 points, four rebounds and four assists - none of which led the team.
The Broncos had four players in double-digit scoring with junior guard Eric Lane having 13 points, while Seth Robinson and Matt Bauscher had 10 points each.
Tech made only two of its first nine shots but warmed up to make 17 of their last 28 of the first half for a total of .514 percent.
Karl’s first points of the game came at 17:29 of the second half. Karl made a jumper in the lane and followed it with a three-pointer on the Bronco’s next possession.
Tech kept lead in the second half until Boise State’s sophomore forward Tyler Tiedeman made a three-pointer at 10:48 of the second half to give the Broncos a 59-58 lead. The three-pointer was part of a 9-0 run, which extended Boise State’s lead to 63-58, before Millsap ended it with a lay-up.
Tech then answered with a 7-0 run until Karl drove the lane and made a bucket under the basket in the midst of heavy defense from the Bulldogs and tied the score at 65-65.
Both teams battled back and forth until the end, when Millsap hit the buzzer beater, and the Bulldogs will head to Idaho 1-0 in WAC play.
The Broncos were shooting .449 from the field for the season and .386 beyond the three-point line, but Boise State made 27 of 48 shots for .563 percent against the Bulldogs, including nine of 14 three-pointers for .625 percent.
Tech started hot in the first half, but made only 12 of 33 in the second half for .362 percent. The Bulldogs made enough to hang on, however, and Tech will play Idaho on Saturday at 4 p.m. CST.
The game can be heard on KXKZ, 107.5 FM, beginning with the pre-game show at 3:30 p.m.