Jan. 16, 2013
RUSTON - Louisiana Tech hasn't lost in the Thomas Assembly Center in almost a year.
Since then they have compiled a 10-game home winning streak and will put it on the line in the TAC Thursday night in a nationally televised contest against Idaho at 6 p.m. dubbed as the "White Out" game.
The Bulldogs (14-3) are also riding a six-game winning streak after coming off a three-game road sweep in Texas of UT Arlington, Texas State and UTSA and sit atop the WAC standings with Utah State with a 5-0 conference record.
Guard Kenyon McNeail kept the `Dogs perfect in WAC play in the final game of the road swing after coming off the bench to pour in a career-high 34 points, including his record-setting ninth three-pointer with 19 seconds remaining, for a 73-71 win over the Roadrunners.
LA Tech currently leads the WAC in scoring average with 73.3 ppg and McNeail paces the team in conference games only with an average of 14.8 ppg. Next is the other backup guard in Alex Hamilton who is averaging 10.2 ppg.
In just the five WAC games thus far, the bench has combined to outscore the starters by 19 points.
"We thought from the first day of practice we had a lot of parity, a lot of athleticism and a lot of interchangeable parts," said head coach Michael White. "Kenyon, along with Alex Hamilton's development over the last month, are basically playing starters minutes now."
Defensively, the Bulldogs have a league-best +4.59 turnover margin which currently ranks 13th in the country and force a WAC-high 17.0 turnovers per game.
The last piece of the trio is preseason first-team all-conference center Kyle Barone who leads the team in scoring (15.5 ppg) and rebounding (8.5 rpg).
"[Idaho] is very structured, tough-nosed and physical," said White. "They are a very good team and could easily be coming in 5-0 [in WAC play]."
The Bulldogs lead the all-time series 10-5, but dropped both contests last season, including a heartbreaking 90-88 overtime loss in the TAC. This marked the first time the Vandals ever won in Ruston.
Idaho went 4-6 in non-conference play and started out the WAC with road wins at Seattle and San Jose State, but has since dropped three tough losses.
The Vandals gave up a game-tying three-pointer at Utah State with 0.4 seconds left that sent the game into overtime and wound up suffering an 82-75 defeat.
Then the Vandals had a one-point lead with 1:35 left against Denver, but the Pioneers retook the lead and won 55-49. Finally, Idaho rallied from 17 points down to New Mexico State to tie the game only to foul on an in-bounds play with 3.5 seconds remaining, allowing a made free throw by the Aggies for the 71-70 loss.
All LA Tech fans are encouraged to make their plans to help "White Out" the TAC by wearing their white attire. Doors to the arena will open at 4:30 p.m. The first 500 Louisiana Tech fans will receive a free official "White Out" t-shirt which will be located on the concourse close to the main entrance.
Free pizza will be available to the first 200 students by showing their ID at the concessions stand. Free jambalaya and cotton candy will also be provided for all fans while supplies last at the main entrance of the TAC before the game.
The Ruston Brick Kid's Zone will be located outside the main entrance to the TAC and will include free face-painting and balloon animals from Rainbow the Clown, a bounce house, obstacle course, ball toss and more.
The matchup will be broadcast live on ESPN Regional (ERT), ESPN Full Court and Cox Sports Television and will be streamed live on ESPN3 with Trey Bender (play-by-play) and Stephen Howard (analyst) calling the action.
The contest will be broadcast live on the LA Tech Sports Network as well, including KXKZ 107.5 FM (Ruston), KJVC 92.7 FM (Mansfield) and KVCL 92.1 FM (Winnfield) with the pregame show beginning at 5:30 p.m. The "Voice of the Bulldogs" Dave Nitz will call the play-by-play and Jack Thigpen will provide analysis. Fans can also access live 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.