@LATechHoops Takes on Florida Atlantic in the TAC
Feb. 11, 2015
RUSTON - Protecting home court will be of the upmost importance for Louisiana Tech as they look to stay atop the Conference USA standings when they take on Florida Atlantic on Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. inside the Thomas Assembly Center.
LA Tech (18-6, 9-2 C-USA) is currently tied with WKU and UAB at the top of the league and will look to keep pace by trying to extend its home winning streak of 24 straight in the TAC and 23 straight conference home victories.
"We are back at home, but that does not mean we need to be comfortable this week," head coach Michael White said. "We need to keep our edge and our focus on continuing to improve to shore up some of our weaknesses. We all know what those things are. Hopefully we can peak at the right time and have some momentum headed into the end of the season."
In every game this season the same five Bulldogs have started every game, but when one of those starters went down with an early injury in their last game at Middle Tennessee, a true freshman stepped in and stepped up to help deliver a victory.
The injured player was Erik McCree and the freshman was Xavian Stapleton who played a career-high 30 minutes of action and in those 30 minutes recorded a team-high 18 points to go along with four rebounds and four steals.
Every bit of his production was needed to seal the 73-62 victory over the Blue Raiders, especially after the `Dogs were coming off the second worst loss in the past four seasons.
The win was difficult considering where it was being played. MT was previously 55-6 at home in the past four years. But then again it was not surprising given that since Feb. 16, 2012, LA Tech has lost back-to-back conference games only once.
The 73 points was right on target with the Bulldogs average offensive output which ranks first in C-USA. Another stat that was expected was Raheem Appleby scoring in double figures which he has done in every game but two this season. He still paces the team with 16.4 points per game which is good for fourth in the league.
Meanwhile, the other two seniors continue to do what they do best. Kenneth Smith continues to dish out the basketball (ranks second in the country with 7.8 assists per game) and Michale Kyser continues to swat basketballs at the rim (ranks 10th in the country with 2.96 blocks per game).
Their focus will undoubtedly be on the next opponent Florida Atlantic (8-13, 1-9 C-USA). FAU may have only notched one league win in 10 tries this season, but the record is misleading. The Owls have lost several close games, five coming by single digits and one being a three-point overtime loss to WKU.
"[FAU] will come in here fired up and prepared," White said. "They have good players and a good staff. They have a lot of girth on the interior, which is what we struggle against. They have some depth and some talented young big men. They really defend the three, which obviously we rely upon. That will be something to watch on Thursday night."
One of the more impressive things about FAU is its ability to defend the three. The Owls lead in that category by far, allowing opponents to shoot just 25.7 percent from beyond the arc. They have only allowed 61 made three-pointers all season while everybody else in the conference has allowed at least double that.
On offense, they have three players averaging in double figures led by guard Solomon Poole with 13.8 points per game.
This will be just the second time that LA Tech and FAU meet on the hardwood. The first time came last season in Ruston and will be remembered for two things - it was the first Conference USA game for the Bulldogs and it was the infamous game where Appleby went down with an ankle injury that sidelined the all-conference player for seven weeks.
The night is being dubbed as Mardi Gras night where LA Tech beads and mask will be given away to fans. Free king cake and pizza will also be available to the first 200 students.
Fans are reminded that tickets for the 2015 Conference USA basketball tournament which will be hosted by UAB in Birmingham (March 11-14) are on sale for $180 which includes tickets to every game (both men's and women's sessions). To purchase your tickets to the tournament or to any Louisiana Tech basketball home game, call the Tech Ticket Office at 318-257-3631, email firstname.lastname@example.org or online HERE.
Live video and audio of the game is available 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 play-by-play while Jack Thigpen provides analysis.
Twitter users can receive live in-game updates by following @LATechHoops.
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