LA Tech and UTEP Battle for First Place on Thursday Night
Feb. 25, 2015
RUSTON - Games do not get much bigger than the one coming up on Thursday night.
First place is on the line in Conference USA as Louisiana Tech and UTEP will battle it out inside the Thomas Assembly Center in a nationally televised game on FS1.
Justin Kutcher and Mike Jarvis will call the action in Ruston with LA Tech's (21-7, 12-3 C-USA) 26-game home winning streak colliding with UTEP's (19-7, 11-3 C-USA) seven-game winning streak.
This contest begins a three-game home stand for the Bulldogs to close out the regular season. It will be the first time in coach White's four years that he finishes the regular season at home and the first time since the 1990-91 season that the last three games are at home.
"We are in an unbelievable situation," head coach Michael White said. "We woke up knowing we have three at home and control our own destiny. That does not guarantee anything. UTEP on Thursday night is going to be an absolute war. At least we have the opportunity. At least we will have a chance if we play well.
"When you consider last weekend, it was not our best weekend. When you went into the weekend, you were hoping for at least a split and we got that. It was not as bad as it seems if you just consider the bottom line, we stole one on the road. That is what you want to do."
The `Dogs are coming off a game in which they dug themselves an 11-point hole to start and never could recover as Old Dominion held them to a season low in points (72-53) on Saturday.
What led to LA Tech's limited scoring output was its worst shooting performance of the season, making just 18-of-57 for 32 percent and just three made three-pointers on 26 attempts.
On the bright side, the game marked the last regular season road game for the Bulldogs as they finish the C-USA season with a 6-3 mark away from home. It is the third straight season that LA Tech has registered at least six road wins in league play.
UTEP is the hottest team in C-USA coming into Thursday's contest. Head coach Tim Floyd recently picked up his 100th win with the Miners after the team defeated UTSA, 69-62, last Saturday.
"You cannot get caught up all week in how you are going to score against them," White said. "You have to find ways to defend them as well. They are very talented and execute well. They take care of the basketball and pass well. They can score on the interior and they shoot the three very well. They have as much talent as anyone in Conference USA.
"I think our guys are already jacked up, just like UTEP's players will be. I think it will be a really fun environment from the tip. It will be fun for us if we can find a way to win."
The Miners have the most efficient offense in the league with a shooting percentage of 47 percent from the field and are second from beyond the arc at 36 percent.
Sophomore forward Vince Hunter is the player that makes them go as he averages almost a double- double with 15.6 points and 9.5 rebounds per game which paces the conference.
In the first meeting this season, the Bulldogs flexed their muscle on defense holding the Miners to just 12 second half points on their way to a 58-45 road win on Jan. 10 in front of 8,653 in attendance at the Don Haskins Center.
LA Tech was as flawless as you can be on defense with UTEP making just five second half field goals and outrebounding the bigger Miners roster by two. On offense, it was a near flawless performance by Raheem Appleby.
The senior guard was face-guarded for almost the entire night, but still went 9-of-12 from the field for a game-high 22 points to along with five rebounds. LA Tech ended up outscoring its opponent, 30-14, in the paint while also grabbing 10 offensive rebounds.
This will be the Miners first trip to Ruston since 2005 when the two teams were league foes in the Western Athletic Conference.
The game is being dubbed as a "Red Out" with the first 1,000 fans receiving free red t-shirts. There will also be free Johnny's pizza for the first 200 students and one lucky full-time student will win 500 dollars.
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 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 and Jack Thigpen will call the action.
Twitter users can receive live in-game updates by following @LATechHoops.
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