Feb. 27, 2013
RUSTON - After a one-game hiatus from conference play, No. 25 Louisiana Tech returns to WAC action on Thursday night at 7 p.m. versus Utah State inside the Thomas Assembly Center.
Despite being away from conference play, league-leading LA Tech (24-3, 14-0 WAC) made plenty of history, setting the program record with its 16th straight win and becoming the first Bulldog team in 28 years to be ranked in the AP Top 25 poll.
"It is pretty neat," said head coach Michael White about being ranked. "I've been a college basketball fan my whole life so it's pretty cool that we broke through, but to me it's more exciting for kids than anybody and for our alumni and for our fans. It wasn't a goal that we set out to accomplish at the beginning of the season. It is just a bonus for us as we continue to strive for our real goals."
It was only about a month ago that these two teams hooked up in Logan, Utah where the `Dogs made more history by becoming the first LA Tech team to beat Utah State (19-7, 9-5 WAC) at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in eight tries.
It took a career night from Brandon Gibson who came off the bench to pour in a team-high 20 points, including a career-high six three-pointers, and a three-pointer with 1:26 remaining from Raheem Appleby to escape with the 51-48 win.
In that game, Utah State's Jarred Shaw and Spencer Butterfield combined for 37 points and 29 rebounds. Together they have produced 14 double-doubles this season.
The Bulldogs ended up allowing 19 offensive rebounds and were outrebounded 50-31, an area of strong emphasis going into what will be the final meeting in the regular season between the two conference foes as both are leaving the WAC after this season, USU to the Mountain West and LA Tech to Conference USA.
"We have to keep them off the boards," said White. "We have to do a better job than we did in Logan. They are big, strong and physical. They play with a lot of pride. We are undersized as it is so we have to do a better job defending our glass."
Coach White will also hope to get more offensive production out of his group after scoring just 16 points in the second half of that contest to narrowly eke out the victory.
One player who has seemed to turn it on offensively is Appleby, the Bulldogs lone player averaging in double figures at 14.7 points per game, who is coming off great shooting performances in his last two games where he is a combined 16-of-33 from the field for 48.5 percent and 10-of-19 from beyond the arc for 52.6 percent.
After the loss to the Bulldogs, USU has since won five games and lost two to Denver and in-state rival BYU, both buzzer-beating defeats.
Fans in attendance will receive free Bulldog basketball key chains while supplies last. The basketball event will also feature the Hill Oil-Green Clinic "Shoot for a Cure" contest for $25,000 and the Ruston Medical Group "Toss It for a Tee" contest for free t-shirts.
The matchup will be broadcast live on ESPN Regional (ERT), ESPN Full Court, Altitude 2 and Cox Sports Television and will be streamed live on ESPN3 with Trey Bender (play-by-play) and Stephen Howard (analyst) calling the action.
The contest will be broadcast live on the LA Tech Sports Network as well, including KXKZ 107.5 FM (Ruston) and KJVC 92.7 FM (Mansfield) with the pregame show beginning at 6:30 p.m. The "Voice of the Bulldogs" Dave Nitz will call the play-by-play and Jack Thigpen will provide analysis. Fans can also access live audio of the game via the Internet by subscribing to LA Tech All-Access at www.LATechSports.com.
Twitter users can also receive live in-game updates by following @LATechHoops.