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Bulldogs Clinch C-USA Regular Season Championship with 70-48 Win

HOUSTON – Make it another 25-win season and another conference regular season championship for Louisiana Tech.

HOUSTON – Make it another 25-win season and another conference regular season championship for Louisiana Tech.

 

Jaron Johnson and Chris Anderson combined for 33 points in leading the Bulldogs to a 70-48 victory over the Rice Owls on Thursday night inside Tudor Fieldhouse.

 

The win marked only the second time in program history that LA Tech (25-6, 13-3 C-USA) has posted back-to-back 25-win seasons and the first time since 1986-88 that the Bulldogs take home back-to-back regular season conference titles.

 

“This is a big feat for this team and this program,” said head coach Michael White.  “I’m proud of the way we came out and battled against a very well-prepared and tough Rice basketball team.  I thought they really defended us well and luckily we made some shots to settle us down offensively a little bit in the second half.  Defensively though, I was proud of our effort for the entire 40 minutes.”

 

J. Johnson came out hot for the ‘Dogs, scoring seven of the team’s first 13 points.  With the Bulldogs clinging to a 13-10, Alex Hamilton delivered an alley-oop pass to Chris Anderson for the slam.

 

Anderson then stepped behind the arc to knock down back-to-back three pointers to help push the lead to 23-14 with 8:34 to go in the first stanza.

 

LA Tech then went dead cold, missing their next nine shots.  It was not until J. Johnson connected for a three-pointer from the wing that snapped the cold shooting.

 

J. Johnson added one more three ball to give him 13 points already, but LA Tech was only able to have a 29-22 lead at halftime despite taking 12 more shots and pulling down 10 offensive rebounds. 

 

“I was very proud of our effort in the first half,” said White.  “We were just playing a well-coached team that played very hard on their home floor.  They were battling and scrapping and we struggled to convert at the rim against their physicality, but I was really proud of our defensive effort and our ability to get to the offensive glass.  We just had to stay the course offensively to give ourselves a chance.”

 

It was Anderson who was feeling it at the start of the second half, scoring nine straight points.  The senior was forced to go out with his third foul, but it did not matter as the Bulldog defense clamped down on Rice (7-22, 2-14 C-USA).

 

The Owls went scoreless for almost six minutes while LA Tech went on a 13-0 run to extend its advantage to 49-27 with 11:49 to go and put the game out of reach for the home Owls.

 

The next basket for the ‘Dogs was a special one as Raheem Appleby went baseline and sank a six-foot jumper, his first points since returning three games ago after an ankle injury sidelined him for seven weeks.

 

Appleby finished with six points in 16 minutes of action while Anderson finished with a game-high 17 points while playing just 21 minutes of action.  J. Johnson finished with 16 and Hamilton added 11.

 

For the 13th time in the past 14 games, Kenneth Smith dished out at least eight assists.  The junior point guard had nine on the night.

 

The Bulldogs finished 25-of-53 (47.2) from the field, including nine three-pointers. 

 

The Owls shot 19-of-43 (44.2) from the field and were led by Sean Obi who scored 12 points.

 

With the way all the other conference games worked out, LA Tech earned the No. 1 seed in the Conference USA Tournament to be held at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas.

 

The Bulldogs get a double-bye into the quarterfinals and will play on Thursday, March 13 at a time and versus an opponent to be determined.

 

POST-GAME QUOTES (HEAD COACH MICHAEL WHITE)

 

Opening Statement:

 

“This is a big feat for this team and this program.  I’m proud of the way we came out and battled against a very well-prepared and tough Rice basketball team.  I thought they really defended us well and luckily we made some shots to settle us down offensively a little bit in the second half.  Defensively though, I was proud of our effort for the entire 40 minutes.”

 

On the message at halftime:

 

“I was very proud of our effort in the first half.  We were just playing a well-coached team that played very hard on their home floor.  They were battling and scrapping and we struggled to convert at the rim against their physicality, but I was really proud of our defensive effort and our ability to get to the offensive glass.  We just had to stay the course offensively to give ourselves a chance because we may not play any better offensively in the second 20 minutes, but we better be as good or better defensively.  I thought we took that message into the first 10 minutes or so.”

 

On Chris Anderson:

 

“He is in a great rhythm offensively.  He is shooting the ball really well and now he becomes even more of a mismatch for teams if he shoots the ball this way.”

 

On the C-USA Tournament:

 

“We have to win game one.  Whoever we are playing, we need to be locked in with as much focus as possible on simply winning one game and that is all that matters.”

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