Conference Road Stretch Continues for Bulldogs in El Paso
Jan. 7, 2015
RUSTON - Louisiana Tech continues its three-game road swing to start Conference USA play on Thursday night with an 8 p.m. CT matchup at UTEP inside the Don Haskins Center.
The contest pits the top two preseason favorites in C-USA against each other in what will be the first of two battles this season.
"UTEP is a tough place to play," head coach Michael White said. "UTEP is very good. If we can hold up the glass and defend the interior, two of our weaknesses and two of their biggest strengths, then we should have a chance. We are improving in those areas, but we also understand that UTEP is very good.
"They played Arizona to five points, who is a contender to go to the Final Four in my opinion. They are improving, talented and obviously very well coached. They will be playing in front of their home crowd and the atmosphere should be electric as it was last year."
LA Tech (10-4, 1-0 C-USA) is coming off an 83-70 victory at Southern Miss behind a season-high 30-point performance by Raheem Appleby. It marked the fourth time in the senior's career that he recorded at least 30 points in a single game, becoming just the 15th Bulldog to do so.
"It is nice to have him back," said White about Appleby who missed most of last year's conference season due to injury. "He is playing as well as he was, if not better, than when he got hurt last year. I thought he was having a break out year in terms of maturity, decision making, assist to turnover ratio, shooting percentages and leadership. Now he is back to that and maybe even playing a little bit better. He is playing as well as probably anyone in our league."
The 83 points was the fourth highest offensive output for the Bulldogs this season. Even with having an equal number of home and road games up to this point (seven and seven), the top four outputs have all come on the road.
The win snapped an eight-game losing skid in Hattiesburg which lasted 43 years. As much as Reed Green Coliseum was an unfriendly place to play for the Bulldogs, the Don Haskins Center is not much friendlier.
LA Tech is only 1-7 all-time playing the Miners in El Paso. The lone win came on March 2, 2002 when the two teams were conference foes in the Western Athletic Conference.
There is also the sting of remembering the last time the `Dogs played in the arena which did not come against UTEP but rather in the heartbreaking loss to Tulsa in the C-USA Tournament Championship.
Not only does this game pit the two top preseason picks in conference, the two squads are also one-two in the league in field goal percentage led by UTEP (10-4, 2-0 C-USA) with a .475 shooting percentage.
The Miners already have two league wins under their bolts, at North Texas and Rice, and sport a 6-1 record at home with the only defeat being a five-point loss to top-10 ranked Arizona.
They are led by the reigning C-USA Freshman of the Year Vince Hunter who has recorded nine double-doubles on the season. He leads the team in points per game (16.7) and rebounds per game (10.3).
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) and KJVC 92.7 FM (Mansfield). The "Voice of the Bulldogs" Dave Nitz will call the action.
Twitter users can also receive live in-game updates by following @LATechHoops.
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