Bulldogs Make History 50 Years ago
Jan. 20, 2017
Whenever March comes around every year, people flock to their televisions to watch the madness that is “The Big Dance.”
Even though the phrase “Big Dance” was not coined until 1977, 10 years earlier the Louisiana Tech men’s basketball team was going dancing for the first time in program history.
It was a big team doing the dancing too. The Bulldogs were intimidating, intimidatingly tall that is, with three players that stood at 6-feet-10-inches or above, including freshman Charlie Bishop who became the program’s first ever 7-footer.
The true origin of the Dunkin’ Dogs may go back 50 years ago to this squad rather than the widely-known duo of Karl Malone and Willie Simmons in the early 80’s.
Eleven of the 13-man roster could dunk, LA Tech Hall of Famer Leon Barmore admitting he was not one of those 11 (perhaps these Dunkin’ Dogs played a role in the NCAA banning dunking for the next nine years?).
Barmore may not could dunk, but boy could he score. The senior averaged a team-high 15.6 points per game that season. He had plenty of other help too scoring the basketball with four teammates also registering double-digit scoring averages for a team that could put up a lot of points.
Bishop averaged a double-double with 14.6 points and 11.3 rebounds. Senior Richard Peek achieved the same feat with 14.1 points and 10.9 boards per game. Senior Jon Stephenson and junior Jim Pruett each averaged just over 11 points per contest.
It only made sense that a big lineup with big dreams of playing in the “Big Dance” would begin the 1966-67 season playing against some big opponents.
LA Tech opened that season with five of its first six games coming against current-SEC teams. The Bulldogs immediately proved how potent they were by going on the road to College Station, Texas and knocking off Texas A&M in the season opener.
After a rough patch to end non-conference play, the ‘Dogs would win 14 of their next 16 games, starting with a thrilling 97-92 victory at Nicholls State. Meanwhile, Memorial Gym was a nightmare for Gulf State Conference opponents to venture into because none left with a W.
LA Tech would go undefeated at home during league play, helping put together a 10-game winning streak that was broken on the road in a heartbreaking overtime loss to Southern Miss, but that proved to be motivation as the team closed the regular season with three consecutive victories.
Before history was made in winning the GSC title and representing the league in the NCAA College Division Midwest Regional Tournament, history was made in a late non-conference game versus in-state rival Centenary.
While downing the Gents 112-93 in Ruston, the freshman Bishop accomplished something that has yet to be topped 50 years later. He pulled down 33 rebounds – yes, 33 rebounds – in the victory. To put that into perspective, the current Bulldogs had 33 rebounds total in the recent victory over Rice.
Two weeks later March Madness was upon everyone and LA Tech was a part of it for the very first time. On March 10, the Bulldogs made the trek to Bloomington, Indiana to face off against the Phil Jackson-led Fighting Hawks of North Dakota.
Yes, that Phil Jackson who went on to play and coach in the NBA, winning 11 titles as a head coach for the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers.
Jackson came in averaging a UND-record 27 points per game, but LA Tech was up to the big challenge, holding the budding superstar to 21 points. Meanwhile on offense, four Bulldogs scored in double-digits (led by Barmore who had 20) to come away with an 86-77 win.
LA Tech had not only made their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance, but they quickly had their first NCAA Tournament victory.
While the Bulldogs would fall the following day against Illinois State to conclude what was a 20-8 mark, the second-best overall record in the school’s history to date, the big dream that team achieved 50 years ago will never be forgotten.
Thirteen Bulldogs -- Leon Barmore, Charlie Bishop, Sammy Brewster, Tommy Gregory, James Moore, Richard Peek, Jim Pruett, Malcolm Smith, Jon Pat Stephenson, Billy Ray Stokes, Robert Talley, Bob Watson and John Whitmore – guided by the legendary head coach Scotty Robertson, all came together to make this magic happen.
It only seems appropriate that this team will be recognized and honored in a big way on Saturday night inside the Thomas Assembly Center on the 50-year anniversary of one of the most memorable seasons in Bulldog Basketball history.
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