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NIT Rematch: Dawgs vs 'Noles

Louisiana Tech will tangle with Florida St. once again in the NIT Tournament
RUSTON – For the second straight season, Louisiana Tech will travel to Tallahassee, Fla. to take on Florida State in the National Invitation Tournament at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
 
The contest will be televised on ESPN2 with tipoff set for 6 p.m. CT on Wednesday and this time the winner advances to Madison Square Garden in New York City for the NIT Final Four.
 
It will also be broadcast live on the LA Tech Sports Network on KXKZ 107.5 FM with the pregame show beginning at 5:30 p.m. CT. The "Voice of the Bulldogs" Dave Nitz will call the play-by-play while Jack Thigpen will provide analysis.  Fans can also access live audio of the game for free via the Internet through LA Tech All-Access at www.LATechSports.com.
 
LA Tech (29-7) got its opponent for the quarterfinal matchup after FSU (21-13) took care of Georgetown, 101-90, on Monday night.
 
The Bulldogs reached this point by going on the road and defeating Georgia, 79-71, in the second round.  LA Tech raced out to a 39-13 lead in the first half and held off a furious rally by UGA to reach the NIT quarterfinals for just the second time in program history.
 
The full court havoc on defense was a huge part of the success for No. 3 seeded Tech against Georgia, forcing them into 19 turnovers. 
 
That same defensive pressure will have to be a factor against No. 1 seeded Florida State just like it was last year in the first round of the NIT when the ‘Dogs forced 18 turnovers.
 
Able to get scoring opportunities in transition, LA Tech shot 66 percent from the field in the second half and used a 6-0 run with the score knotted up with less than three minutes remaining to pull off a 71-66 win, only the third ever victory against a current ACC school.
 
Raheem Appleby dropped a game-high 27 points on the Seminoles that night while the Florida native Alex Hamilton added 16.
 
“I know Florida State will be very familiar with us as we will be them,” said head coach Michael White.  “This is another big opportunity for this program.  We didn’t play particularly well offensive in Tallahassee last year, but did just enough defensively to create turnovers, especially late in the second half to make a run. 
 
“Florida State is so good defensively.  We will have to play well defensively.  We will do what we are best at knowing that they have a size advantage and an interior advantage.  The biggest concern going to Tallahassee will be how do you score enough to give yourself a chance.”
 
In some ways, that game was the coming-out party for Hamilton.  Since then, he has started every game for the Bulldogs and leads the team in scoring this season with 14.7 points per game. 
 
Having grown up in the shadows of Florida State, the sophomore played a big role in getting the team to this quarterfinal showdown after scoring a game-high 20 versus UGA.
 
“Teams have started to extend on him a little bit which allows him to do what he does best and that is use his ball skills to get to the rim and get to the foul line,” said White.  “He has an uncanny ability to finish in the paint with his size with either hand.  He is playing at a really high level and with a ton of confidence right now.  Georgia was his best defensive game all year as well.”
 
FSU moved on to the quarterfinals after first ousting in-state foe Florida Gulf Coast in the first round before putting up triple digits on the Hoyas, compliments of 11-of-16 shooting from three-point range.
 
Sophomore Aaron Thomas, who averages a team-leading 14.6 points per game, earned All-ACC Honorable Mention honors.
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