RUSTON, La. – Kenneth Smith set the both the single-season assists and steals record as Louisiana Tech defeated Middle Tennessee, 55-39, on Thursday night in the Thomas Assembly Center in front of a crowd of 5,349 Bulldog fans.
Louisiana Tech (23-6, 11-3 C-USA) led by eight at the half, but Middle Tennessee (21-8, 11-3 C-USA) stuck around before the midway point in the second half when the Bulldogs went on a 23-5 run to pull away for good after the Blue Raiders had tied the game at 32 with just over ten minutes remaining in the game.
Jaron Johnson led all scorers with 15 points, and he was joined in double figures by Alex Hamilton, who scored 12. Smith had a career night with eight steals and nine assists. Michale Kyser helped lead the defensive effort with eight blocked shots, including a one-minute span when he had three blocks in the second half. Louisiana Tech forced 19 turnovers, which means the Bulldogs are now 19-0 on the season when forcing 15 or more turnovers by an opponent.
For the first time since Jan. 9, Raheem Appleby made an appearance in a game for the Bulldogs. After suffering ligament damage against Florida Atlantic, Appleby sat out 49 days before coming in as a substitute with 9:14 left in the first half against Middle Tennessee. He missed a total of 12 games, all of which were Conference USA contests.
Middle Tennessee was led by Neiko Hunter, Shawn Jones and Reggie Upshaw, who all scored eight points on the night for the Blue Raiders.
Louisiana Tech’s next action comes Sunday when the Bulldogs travel to Birmingham to take on UAB in a 3 p.m. contest.