LA Tech Turns Focus to Middle Tennessee
Feb. 10, 2016
RUSTON -- It is a big weekend inside the Thomas Assembly Center as Louisiana Tech welcomes in the top two teams in the league.
The Bulldogs' first focus will be on Thursday night when they play host to Middle Tennessee at 8 p.m. in a game that will be broadcast live on the American Sports Network with Lyn Rollins and Ben Braun calling the action.
With eight games to go, LA Tech (17-6, 6-4 C-USA) is currently tied for fourth in the Conference USA standings while the Blue Raiders sit alone in second. The top four teams earn an automatic bye to the quarterfinals of the league tournament which is only a month away.
"We need to bounce back this week," head coach Eric Konkol said. "Sometimes there are frustrating moments in games. What we need to do is battle adversity cause it is coming in every ball game. We have to find a way to get through it, get to the next play, keep our composure and really group together.
"There are really good teams and very good coaches in this league. These two teams coming in this week happen to be at the top of the standings. It is a great challenge and a great opportunity for us. We are looking forward to it."
The adversity hit this past Saturday when the Bulldogs had their four-game winning streak come to an end in large part due to turnovers and fouls. After holding a 10-point halftime advantage, the team committed 12 turnovers and 21 fouls in the second stanza which led to the loss at North Texas.
These are teachable moments for Konkol and the coaching staff for a team that has a lot of players who have elevated roles from last season like Dayon Griffin, Merrill Holden and Jacobi Boykins. There are also three freshmen in Branden Sheppard, Derric Jean and Jy'lan Washington who are in the main rotations.
"The greatest expectations we have are our own," Konkol added. "These guys want to be good. We are striving every day to just keep improving. We have a lot of younger guys. In the second half of Saturday's game, we had Alex Hamilton with two sophomores and two freshmen on the floor. It was a very teachable moment and we have to just keep getting better."
Playing in the TAC, a place where LA Tech has won 61 of the last 63 games, should help with the growing process for this weekend. This season, the team is 12-1 in the friendly confines while averaging 82.3 points per game with a scoring margin of +17.0.
The Bulldogs will certainly need to be focused on both ends of the court against Middle Tennessee (17-6, 9-2 C-USA) who has won nine of its last 10 games, including a 67-66 victory over FIU this past Saturday.
The Blue Raiders returned a lot of experience off last year's roster and it shows. Of their nine league wins, four have been decided by only one possession. "Middle Tennessee is very good defensively," Konkol said. "They do it in a lot of ways. They play man-to-man, mixing up their coverages. They do a lot of different things. They also run the gamut of offensive plays. They have some talented players and play very hard. They have been in some very good ball games where they have found a way. They have a mature group."
One of the returners is guard Giddy Potts who leads the team in scoring with an average of 15.2 points per game. He currently leads the league in three-point shooting percentage (51.9).
LA Tech leads the all-time series over MT, 10-2. The Bulldogs have won five straight and are a perfect 7-0 at home.
The Bulldog Football team will be on hand to sign autographs and show off their R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl trophy which fans can take pictures with.
Fans can access live audio of the game via the Internet by subscribing to LA Tech All-Access at LATechSports.com. The game can be heard live on the LA Tech Sports Network on KXKZ 107.5 FM (Ruston) and KRMD 1340 AM (Shreveport). The "Voice of the Bulldogs" Dave Nitz will call the play-by-play and Jack Thigpen will provide analysis.
Twitter users can also receive live in-game updates by following @LATechHoops.
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