Jan. 10, 2014
RUSTON - Louisiana Tech head coach Michael White has always said he has about eight starters on his roster.
With both Raheem Appleby and Gilbert Talbot questionable for playing time, that depth will certainly come in handy on Saturday night as the Bulldogs play host to FIU at 7 p.m. inside the Thomas Assembly Center.
The game is the second part of a doubleheader with the Lady Techsters taking on Middle Tennessee.
Last season, the bench was the driving force for LA Tech (13-3, 1-0 C-USA), outscoring the opponent's bench in 28 of the 34 games. In fact, in the 18 conference games the bench combined to outscore the starters.
This season has been no different so far. The Bulldog bench has outscored the opponent's bench in 14 of the 16 games. As a group, they are averaging 32 points per game with key contributors like the senior trio of Kenyon McNeail, Cordarius Johnson and Jaron Johnson.
"Certain guys who I have said in the past I think could be starting for other teams, they will have more opportunities," said White. "Their minutes will go up. If their production goes up they will earn more and more minutes.
"Our depth becomes a major asset for us now. We'll have to pull together, and I'm confident that we'll have guys take advantage."
The Panthers spent 15 seasons in the Sun Belt Conference before making the move. Last season the team was three points shy of winning the conference tournament and advancing to its second NCAA Tournament, but FIU fell 65-63 to Western Kentucky.
Anthony Evans took over the head coaching duties this year for FIU and has the Panthers coming off its first ever C-USA win, a 71-60 decision at Rice, which snapped a three-game losing skid.
FIU plays fast," said White. "They apply pressure defensively and are very good in transition and on the offensive glass. They are quick and athletic."
Senior forward and leading scorer Tymell Murphy led the charge with 22 points and 15 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season. Murphy is shooting a remarkable 61 percent from the field which ranks 10th in the country and he ranks No. 1 FIU program history in field goal percentage.
Fellow forward Rakee Buckles nearly averages a double-double on the season with 13.8 points per game and 9.9 rebounds per game.
The two teams have only played each other six times when the two teams were conference rivals in the Sun Belt from 1998-2001. The Panthers were one of only four teams to defeat the Bulldogs in 1998-99 when LA Tech won the Sun Belt regular season championship, its last conference title prior to last season's WAC championship.
The loss to FIU in Ruston in 2001 was the final game the Bulldogs played in as a Sun Belt Conference member.
Saturday will be Military Appreciation Day at the Thomas Assembly Center as all military members can purchase tickets for only $5. Following the men's contest, a kids friendly bootcamp will be conducted on the floor of the TAC by members of the Louisiana Tech ROTC program.
The game will be broadcast live on the LA Tech Sports Network on KXKZ 107.5 FM and KJVC 92.7 FM. The "Voice of the Bulldogs" Dave Nitz will do play-by-play while Jack Thigpen provides analysis. Fans can also access live video and audio of the game via the Internet by subscribing to LA Tech All-Access at www.LATechSports.com.
Twitter users can also receive live in-game updates by following @LATechHoops.