Nov. 14, 2014
Final Stats | Notes
BATON ROUGE, La. - Season openers are tough to win. Season openers on the road are even tougher.
Louisiana Tech struggled through much of the game with nine newcomers getting their feet wet and going up against a tough Southern team.
However, the Bulldogs still managed to grind out an 85-76 road win over the Jaguars on Friday night inside the F.G. Clark Activity Center behind four starters with double-digit scoring efforts.
LA Tech (1-0) was just 26-of-59 from the field, but got to the free throw line 36 times with 11 of those coming from Alex Hamilton who led all scorers with 18 points.
Erik McCree, who made his first career start for the Bulldogs, had 17 along with a team-high eight rebounds. Raheem Appleby and Kenneth Smith each added 15.
"I really credit Southern for their intensity, especially defensively, that they came out with," head coach Michael White said. "They are very, very good. We knew we would have our hands full. I am not sure our nine newcomers understood the level of intensity it would take to win a game like this, especially on the road. Hopefully we can learn from this in more ways than one."
The season opener jitters seemed to get to both teams as they were ice cold shooting and turnover prone early on. Neither squad was able to take a two-possession lead through much of the first half.
Southern (0-1) slowly managed to build a 30-25 lead, but LA Tech was able to close out the final minutes before halftime with a 10-2 run including back-to-back three-pointers from Xavian Stapleton and Smith to go into the locker room with a three-point advantage.
Prior to those two made three's, the `Dogs were just 1-of-12 from downtown.
The Jaguars came out and quickly retook the lead with six straight points, but LA Tech responded with an alley-oop slam by Michale Kyser and a corner three by Appleby to take the lead right back.
The see-saw battle continued with the game having 17 lead changes and 12 ties.
LA Tech eventually found a small rhythm and put together a 9-0 run with four straight free throws and then five straight points from Hamilton to give them a 66-59 advantage with 7:13 left, the largest lead up to that point.
The Jaguars refused to go away though getting back to within three.
However from there it turned into the Speedy show. The all-conference point guard knocked down two three-pointers and dished to Appleby on an out-of-bounds play which he calmly sank for a three to go up 78-71 with three minutes to go.
LA Tech hung on from there for its first road opening victory since 2009 and its first ever win in Baton Rouge against Southern.
"Our veteran guards I thought made some big plays, offensively and defensively, that were the difference in the outcome of the game," White said. "It is a beautiful feeling knowing that we have four [veterans] that you know what you are going to get out of them, that have been there and done that. Our guys showed a lot of toughness tonight and overcame a lot of adversity."
SU was led by Joell Hopkins who recorded 13 points. Christopher Hyder added 11 for the Jags.
It is a quick turn for the Bulldogs as they head to Philadelphia on Monday to take on Temple at 6 p.m. CT. The game will be streamed live on ESPN3.
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