ATHENS, Georgia – There was a good ole fashioned dog show at Stegeman Coliseum Saturday morning.
And the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs won “best of show” as head coach Mike White’s team put on exactly that … a show.
Tech raced out to a 26-point first half lead and withstood a furious Georgia rally as the Louisiana-based Bulldogs defeated UGA 79-71 in the second round of the National Invitational Tournament.
With the win Tech (29-7) tied the program record with 29 victories, matching the total set by the 1984-85 team which advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. It also advances to the quarterfinal round and will play the winner of Monday night’s Georgetown/Florida State game.
The Bulldogs were simply awesome early. Tech came out of the gates causing havoc defensively and executing its offense to precision as the Bulldogs jumped out to an 18-2 lead just five minutes into the contest.
Alex Hamilton scored the first basket of the game on a driving layup and then finished off the game-opening 8-0 run with a steal and a dunk with 17:29 to play. Nemanja Djurisic finally got Georgia (20-14) on the scoreboard, but LA Tech reeled of 10 straight points, including back-to-back three-pointers by Hamilton and Cordarius Johnson.
While the Stegeman Coliseum crowd of 3,692 did everything in their power to get their Georgia Bulldogs back into the game, Tech wouldn’t cooperate.
With Tech holding onto a 22-9 advantage with 12 minutes to play in the first half, senior guard Kenyon McNeail put his name into the record books hitting consecutive three-pointers to push the lead to 28-9. The first of the trifectas gave McNeail 220 for his career, surpassing Lonnie Cooper for first place.
McNeail and Co. continued the barrage from downtown as a Chris Anderson three-pointer and a Johnson layup with 7:27 to play in the first half gave Tech a 39-13 lead, its biggest of the game. Tech hit 16 of its first 24 field goals of the game, including 7-of-8 from three-point land.
The Bulldogs held a 46-27 halftime advantage of a Georgia team that was 15-2 at home this season.
The final 20 minutes of play was a dog fight. Tech managed to maintain its 20-point lead on a three-pointer by Cordarius Johnson with 13:23 to play in the game.
However, Georgia wouldn’t bow out quietly. A tip-in by Brandon Morris with 6:52 to play in the game cut the Tech lead down to single digits at 60-51. After Tech used a 9-5 run capped by a Kenneth Smith three-pointer with 2:40 to play, it appeared the Bulldogs were safe.
That wasn’t the case. Georgia turned up the pressure and when J.J. Frazier hit a three-pointer with 19 seconds to play the lead was down to 75-71. However, a pair of free throws by Hamilton and a break-away dunk by Kyser sealed the win for LA Tech.
LA Tech’s quarterfinal matchup against the winner of Georgetown and Florida State will be Wednesday night at either 6 or 8 p.m. CT and will be televised on ESPN2. If Georgetown wins, the Bulldogs will host the Hoyas. If Florida State wins, Tech will travel to Tallahassee for the second straight year.