March 1, 2014
RUSTON - Last Thursday night's win put Louisiana Tech in a four-way tie for first place in Conference USA.
The Bulldogs now control their own destiny for a regular season title, a destiny that will have to be fulfilled away from home as they finish with two road games, starting with a trip to Birmingham, Ala. to face UAB on Sunday at 3 p.m.
This situation is similar to last season, yet completely different says head coach Michael White.
"Our last two games last season were on the road as well, but the circumstances were very different," said White. "We had already clinched a championship. This season, we must win both to win a championship. It's right there in front of us, but we know we'll have to play really well to win on the road."
LA Tech (23-6, 11-3 C-USA) was able to put itself in this position after a 55-39 win over Middle Tennessee who was previously the sole league-leader but is now a part of the four-way tie along with Southern Miss and Tulsa.
The defense shined in every way possible, forcing 19 turnovers, and holding the Blue Raiders to their lowest scoring output since Feb. 3, 2007.
In the span of five minutes of action, Kenneth Smith set four school records which helped deliver the pivotal victory.
With 7:07 remaining in the game and the Bulldogs up 40-32, Speedy came up with his fifth steal to give the point guard the most steals in a single season by a junior and the most steals in a single season by any one in program history.
He was not done though as he registered three more steals during this stretch to break the single game record with eight.
LA Tech has now put together back-to-back excellent defensive performances, a crucial part of the game that will need to carry over to Birmingham as well.
"Our defense has carried us in our last couple wins," said White. "As an inconsistent scoring team at times, defense needs to continue to be our staple.
"UAB is very different from us in many regards. They are very big and strong, and rebound the ball as well as anyone in America. They're also very solid defensively. They're a talented team and this will obviously be a huge challenge for us."
During non-conference play, UAB (18-10, 7-7 C-USA) notched impressive wins over Rutgers, Nebraska and nationally-ranked North Carolina.
The Blazers have also knocked off Tulsa and Southern Miss, but find themselves in eighth place in the standings with a .500 mark. They struggled during the first half of league play starting 3-6, but they have since righted the ship winning four of their last five.
UAB is one of the top rebounding teams in the country, averaging a league-best 45.3 boards per game with a rebounding margin of +8.8 which ranks fourth in the country. They also rank in the top five in the nation in total rebounds (1,268), offensive rebounds (16.75) and defensive rebounds (28.54).
As much as they love to dominate the paint and the glass, the Blazers are led by a guard in Chad Frazier. The junior leads the team in scoring with 18.0 points per game, good for third in C-USA.
It was his driving layup with two seconds remaining to secure the come-from-behind victory over the Owls in their last outing.
LA Tech will be attempting to do something they have never done on Sunday and that is beat UAB. The two teams have played each other four times with all four meetings taking place in Birmingham and all four resulting in a double-digit loss for the Bulldogs.
The contest can be heard live on the LA Tech Sports Network on KXKZ 107.5 FM and KJVC 92.7 FM. The "Voice of the Bulldogs" Dave Nitz will have the call with pregame starting at 2:30 p.m. and Jack Thigpen joining him as analyst. 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.