Teddy Allen: Dunkin' Dogs Win a Rock Fight

March 8, 2018

(Read Kane McGuire’s Tech/North Texas game story first, also on this site.)

FRISCO, TEXAS — Eric Konkol told his Dunkin’ Dogs all week that Wednesday night’s game against North Texas in the first round of the Conference-USA Tournament would be a rock fight.

Coach don’t lie.

Louisiana Tech played like a maniac — young folk call this “bringing the juice”— in a 68-62 victory over the Mean Green that earned the Bulldogs a date with No. 2-seed Old Dominion today at 8:30 back here at the Ford Center at The Star.

“They got us at our place,” said Tech’s Anthony Duruji of ODU’s 82-69 victory over Tech in early February in the Thomas Assembly Center. “It’s gonna be a battle in the paint.”

“Gotta be ready,” said Tech guard Amorie Archibald, right before Duruji said, “It’s gonna be another fight game.”

That’s a good way to put it.

Before we speak of the ODUers, the Bulldogs got a good warmup for ODU by playing against North Texas, C-USA’s most improved team from last season to this one.

Appropriate that last night’s game was played here in the indoor facility where the Dallas Cowboys practice; players should have worn saddles. It was highly physical: Tech was called for 20 fouls, North Texas for 23. Tech’s 20-of-26 effort at the free throw line was huge.

The game wasn’t high scoring, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t high energy.

“We’ve been looking for some consistency on defense,” Konkol said. “We got that tonight.”

Tech’s Jacobi Boykins led all scorers with 21, but it was the way he played defense, including in practice leading up to the game, that was a difference maker. An example is his hustle block of a breakaway layup attempt by Roosevelt Smart, the Mean Green’s leading scorer, midway through the second half. Tech was leading, 44-39, at the time, and JaColby Pemberton, one of eight Bulldogs who played 17 minutes or more, was fouled after he got the rebound.



Those fouls added up and put Tech in the bonus early.

“They made a bunch of free throws down the stretch,” North Texas coach Grant McCasland said. “A bunch.”

Early on, it didn’t seem as if it would end the way it did. Maybe the Bulldogs didn’t believe their coach’s “rock fight” guarantee before the game started, but with roughly a quarter of the game gone, getting killed on the offensive glass, pushed around, and trailing 17-10, it seems they started to. They battled and tied it at 18-all.

From there, it was trading punches.

“We knew it was going to be physical on the backboards,” Konkol said. “I think we got stunned on a couple of plays early. After a while I think our team understood, ‘OK, this is how it’s going to be.’ And they kicked it into another gear.”

Oliver Powell is a good example. He ended with eight boards, including a couple of “violent, two-hand grabs,” Konkol said, that the Bulldogs had to have.

“We played desperate the whole game,” Duruji said. “We played like we were down by 16, down by 20. Let’s go.”

An obviously heartsick McCasland was tardy to the post-game press for reasons only a competitor can know. The first-year head coach led the Mean Green from an 8-22, 2-16 record last season to a 15-17, 8-10 finish this year.

“For it to come to such an abrupt end, the whole season…you never expect a game to be your last,” he said. “You just sit in that locker room with the guys who laid the foundation and talk about the future.”

First, he had to talk about the immediate past.

“We started out great on offense, had great rhythm, and then, we just stalled out,” he said. “We had some good looks at offensive rebounds and missed them. Good layup looks, we missed them.”

“They spread the floor, they can shoot or drive, so you never know what to prepare for when they have the ball,” said Ryan Woolridge, the solid Mean Green guard who, along with Roosevelt Smart, led his team in scoring with 20. “We just couldn’t stop them, honestly.”

“We’d get a little something going,” McCasland said, “and they’d make a big three.”

With 1:31 left and the score at 55-50, Tech is running its offense and suddenly there is Archibald, beyond the arc from the right side of the key, with the ball in his hands.

“Oh, I hesitated, definitely,” he said. “But I saw the opportunity there, saw it drop through the bottom of the net, and ran back down the floor.”

It was probably the second biggest 3-pointer of the night. The biggest was by Derric Jean — he scored 17 points, had five assists and was 9-of-13 from the line — which was with 6:02 left. It was a semi-desperation heave that he launched with the coolness of a guy playing checkers just to pass the time.

“Those two,” Konkol said, “were huge.”

Another came when Boykins, high on the left side, was trying to tie his shoe. DaQuan Bracey, who like Pemberton and Exavian Christon played key minutes, threw the ball crosscourt to Boykins, who made the 3 and then finished tying his shoe.

With the injuries and defections that Tech has had this season, it seemed more than fair.

“With all that’s happened this year, it’s easy to get down,” Konkol said. “It’s easy to get frustrated or disappointed. So we need to lift each other up. I keep telling our guys to give energy to a guy who needs it and it will come back to you so much more, in such a bigger way.”

The Bulldogs will need all of that against ODU.

“They’re good; I know that,” said Konkol. “They have a lot of experience. We’re looking forward to playing them again.”

The Bulldogs won’t have to wait long. The next Fight Game tips at 8:30 tonight.


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