Bulldogs Hope To Cook Up Win Over Rice


Posted Feb 19, 2003 18:13:26
Bulldogs Hope To Cook Up Win Over Rice

RUSTON, La. -- Louisiana Tech tries to keep the streak alive as the Bulldogs play host to Rice in a 7 p.m. contest Thursday at the Thomas Assembly Center.

The Bulldogs enter the contest at 12-9 overall and 9-5 in the Western Athletic Conference while Rice is 15-7 and 7-5.

Tech was won seven straight, including a 99-97 overtime win at Nevada last Saturday. Bulldogs coach Keith Richard hopes the momentum that led to road wins over Fresno State and Nevada will carry over to the home game against Rice.

"We went out on the road and beat the top two teams in the conference, which is never an easy thing to do," Richard said. "We're playing good basketball and the team seems to be getting better every game. Those are the kinds of things we're looking for and hopefully we can keep things going against Rice."

Eleven out of Tech's 14 WAC games this season have been decided by eight points or less and Richard expects much of the same against Rice.

"Rice is a lot like we are," Richard said. "Both teams have five WAC losses. They can be a very explosive offensive team. The last time we played they won 93-92. I expect it to be like the other games we've played recently -- close and competitive. Someone will have to make a play at the end to win."

Senior forward Antonio Meeking has been making many of Tech's plays this season and on Wednesday was named to the first-team of the National Basketball Coaches Association's All-District 8 team. Meeking ranks No. 3 in the WAC with 19.5 points per game and leads the Bulldogs with 7.6 rebounds per game.

Lavelle Felton has also played a crucial role for Tech as of late and the senior guard is the current WAC Player of the Week after hitting on hit on 72.7 percent of his shots (24-of-33) from the floor in three Tech wins last week. He averaged 20.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in those three contests and is averaging 13.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game on the season.

"Meeking and Felton have really stepped things up as the season has progressed," Richard said. "Felton is shooting with all kinds of confidence right now. The whole team has turned things up and we're going to have to raise the bar again against Rice."

The earlier meeting this season between Rice and Tech turned out to be a heartbreaker for the Bulldogs as Louisiana Tech produced one of its best offensive efforts of the season but an apparent Bruce Edwards' 3-pointer in the closing seconds was ruled a deuce as Tech fell to the Owls by one point.

Michael Wilder led Tech in that game with a career-high 26 points.

The officials had a brief conference after time expired in that first meeting and ruled the Edwards basket a two-pointer, ending the game. Two officials put their arms up ruling a 3-pointer during game action but changed their minds after talking things over.

Tech scored on a Zach Johnson with 55.3 seconds remaining to cut the Rice lead to 91-90 in the game. Rice's Michael Harris knocked down a turnaround bank shot as the shot clock expired on the other end to give the Owls a 93-90 advantage with 21.7 remaining.

Louisiana Tech shot 54.2% in that game while the Owls shot 62.7%.

"It won't be easy because Rice is a good team," Richard said. "We're just going to keep working hard and hopefully things will keep going our way. We're going to ride this thing as far as we can."

Omar-Seli Mance leads Rice with 16.6 point per game while Michael Harris is coming off the bench to add 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest for the Owls.

Tech will play its home finale of the season at noon on Saturday when the Bulldogs play host to Northern Iowa in an ESPN Bracket Buster event. That game will be broadcast live on Cox Sports and ESPN will cut into the game during its other game broadcasts.

The game against Rice will be carried live on KXKZ 107.5 FM (Ruston) and the Louisiana Tech Sports Network.