RUSTON (Courtesy Tech) – The Louisiana Tech defense turned up the heat and the physicality, forcing 24 turnovers and outrebounding a big Charlotte frontcourt to come away with an 80-60 victory on Thursday night in the Thomas Assembly Center.
LA Tech (16-4, 4-1 C-USA) was determined to hit the glass much harder coming off a loss that saw the ‘Dogs give up 48 boards, 19 of which were offensive.
“We really responded from the way that Southern Miss handled us in the paint,” said head coach Michael White. “I am not sure if we played with as much physicality tonight that we would have even overcome the effort Sunday by Southern Miss. They are just so good in the interior, but Charlotte is as well and Charlotte is really good.
“Overall, we were able to overcome a very average offensive performance, which is fine. We will take that. We were really good defensively and that is as good as it gets for us on the glass.”
As the story typically goes for White’s team, whenever the Bulldogs are playing extremely hard on the defensive side, it will carry over to the offensive side.
Tonight it carried over into 46 paint points, a lot of which was generated by the driving ability of Alex Hamilton who finished with a game-high 22 points.
Much of the rest came at the hands of Kenneth Smith who dished out a season-high 13 assists, finding guys beyond the arc and down low for easy layups.
“Speedy has gotten more minutes with Raheem being out,” said White. “Speedy was banged up early in the season. He had to come out of the game at one point tonight because his knees were hurting so bad. That said, as he has gotten closer to 100 percent, it has allowed him to practice harder, longer and he has gotten in better shape.”
So many high-percentage shots resulted in LA Tech shooting 47.7 percent from the field.
Charlotte (12-6, 3-2 C-USA) used an 8-0 run to jump out to an early 14-6 lead, but that is when the Bulldog defense cranked up to force four turnovers during a mini 6-0 run of their own to get to within two.
LA Tech took the lead for good with 8:16 to play in the first stanza as Smith found Anderson for the point blank bucket.
Kenneth Smith found Jaron Johnson in the corner for a three to give the ‘Dogs a 35-25 advantage and later dished it to the other Johnson, Cordarius Johnson, for a corner three to beat the halftime buzzer.
It was thought that the ‘Dogs were going into the locker room with a nine-point edge, but referees went to the monitor, ultimately deciding to put 1.2 seconds back on the clock and ejecting Michale Kyser with a flagrant two foul.
The 49ers made the two free throws, making the deficit 40-33 for the visitor.
Isaiah Massey and Gilbert Talbot provided quality minutes in Kyser’s absence, and Hamilton became unstoppable, muscling his way to the basket for lay-in after lay-in.
On a possession when the 49ers figured he would do the same, the sophomore tossed an alley-oop to J. Johnson for the slam to give the ‘Dogs a 57-42 lead with 11:14 to go.
The largest lead ballooned to 23 after an old-fashioned three-point play from the crafty Hamilton to cap a 10-0 run.
“[Alex] just has that ability while he is in the middle of those two steps, while he has his head up seeing his teammates on the perimeter,” said White. “He is good at taking contact and getting a really good look up at the rim. I thought he missed three or four early that really had a chance. He could have had a phenomenal night. He still had a very good night.”
Charlotte ended the night shooting 41.1 percent from the field, paced by Pierria Henry who had 20. Forward Willie Clayton delivered a double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds) for the 49ers.
LA Tech stays home to take on Marshall for Operation Sellout on Saturday, Jan. 25 in a nationally televised game on CBS Sports Network. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.