Men's Basketball

Bulldogs Blow Past Panthers for 20th Win of the Season

Feb. 14, 2015

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RUSTON - The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs were unleashed on defense, forcing 28 turnovers and allowing just 28 percent shooting, in a 75-42 blowout victory over the FIU Panthers on Saturday night in front of 3,314 fans inside the Thomas Assembly Center.

The victory for LA Tech (20-6, 11-2 C-USA) helped them reach the 20-win plateau for the third straight season and also kept the team in sole possession of first place in Conference USA with five league games to go.

"That was as well as we have played all year," head coach Michael White said. "We struggled in the first half, but it was not a huge surprise. FIU came into the game with the best defensive field goal percentage in the league. They are long, athletic and they came prepared as they always do. They do a good job of switching defenses and keeping you off balance.

"We found ourselves not in a great rhythm offensively, but to defend at the level we did in the first half, gave us a real chance. I thought it set the tone for all 40 minutes. We had 18 deflections at halftime, with 17 turnovers. You can win a lot of games doing that. We hoped it was a matter of time before some shots started falling. They did start falling in the second half and we got into an offensive rhythm."

The 42 points scored by FIU (12-13, 5-7 C-USA) was its lowest scoring output of the season and also the fewest points the Bulldogs have allowed in what was the 26th straight home win in the TAC.

The entire first stanza ended up being all about defense for the `Dogs which was fine by coach White who knew they would eventually find their rhythm on offense.

LA Tech made just one of its first 10 shots which allowed FIU to take an 11-10 lead with 9:08 left in the first half on two made free throws by Adrian Diaz, but from there it was an amazing turn of events. The Bulldogs forced an amazing 12 turnovers and allowed just four points the rest of the half.

During the stretch, the `Dogs searched long and hard for an offensive spark and got it in the seven-footer Joniah White. The big man scored on all three of his field goal attempts in the paint and grabbed two rebounds during the 16-4 run to give the home team a 26-15 halftime edge.

The Bulldogs were just 9-of-29 from the field and 0-of-9 from beyond the arc in the first stanza, but they still held a double-digit advantage because FIU had almost three times as many turnovers (17) as made field goals (six) in the period.

The second half started much of the same way as the first half ended by Erik McCree picking off a pass at midcourt and taking it the distance for the layup.

After LA Tech built a 36-20 lead on a made three-pointer by Kenneth Smith, FIU responded with five straight points from Tashawn Desir which led to a timeout called by coach White.

Out of the timeout, Speedy dished his 200th assist of the season to an open Xavian Stapleton on the wing who knocked down the triple and suddenly the offense was clicking. The true freshman would score all 13 of his points over a four-minute span, including three three-pointers, giving the Bulldogs a 51-30 lead with 10:03 to go in the game.

"This was as well as we have played defensively all season," said White. "When you consider bench production and consider us making a jump in that regard, this has to be one of our better performances. There has not been a game this year where we have gotten positive production from everyone we put in.

"We put 12 guys in the game tonight, even though a couple of them only got a few minutes, and all 12 did some good things. All 12 were not perfect. Xavian had a really good game and Jacobi Boykins was all over the place with five steals. Qiydar Davis played with great energy, I wish I could have gotten him a few more minutes. Joniah White obviously had his best game."

The offensive explosion in the second stanza helped LA Tech finish with a 47.5 percent shooting percentage (28-of-59) in the game. They ended up knocking down eight three-pointers in the second half as well.

The Bulldogs top two scorers - Raheem Appleby and Alex Hamilton -- led the way with an efficient 14 points each.

FIU made only 15 field goals the entire game. The Panthers were led by Adrian Diaz who notched a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Next up for LA Tech is their last road trip of the regular season, starting with a battle at Charlotte on Thursday, Feb. 19. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. CT and the game will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network.

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