RUSTON – On a night when Louisiana Tech was short-handed and two players required IVs, the Bulldogs still outraced Marshall behind Kenneth Smith’s double-double which led to a 98-77 victory on Saturday night in front of a rowdy crowd of 7,355 fans in the Thomas Assembly Center.
With the win, LA Tech (17-4, 5-1 C-USA) remained tied for first place in the conference and has now defeated eight straight opponents in the TAC.
“I was really pleased with the energy level from the tip on both sides of the ball, a lot of it had to do with the best crowd we have had here since I have been here and I would imagine in a long time,” said head coach Michael White. “The place was electric. It was fun. It was a factor ten minutes before the game started. Our guys were all fired up and I think it carried over into the way we started the game.
Speedy Smith was well on his way to a triple-double at halftime with gaudy numbers of eight points, 10 assists and six steals at the break.
The point guard required an IV in the second half and cruised to season-highs in all three categories (17 points, 13 assists and six steals) with only one turnover.
“I cannot imagine there is a better passer in the country,” said White. “I have never been around a better passer. He is phenomenal. He gets 12, 13 and 15 [assists] in games where we don’t shoot the ball well. Imagine if we shot the ball well. He is a ridiculous passer, who is getting better in other areas.”
The second person to get an IV was Kenyon McNeail who provided a huge spark off the bench to record a season-high 22 points, including 5-of-5 from downtown.
Meanwhile, Marshall (7-14, 1-5 C-USA) became the fourth opponent of the ‘Dogs this season to commit over 20 turnovers, ending the night with 22.
The Bulldogs forced five turnovers and two timeouts by Marshall in the first two minutes of action, opening up a 17-2 lead after a made lay-up from Smith.
The Thundering Herd was able to weather the storm however and punched right back with a 16-4 run to cut the deficit down to the three, 21-18, with 12:29 to play.
McNeail then came off the bench to pour in 13 of the team’s next 23 points, including three three-pointers, to increase the lead back to 44-29.
With several players in foul trouble, Stojan Gjuroski was a key component in filling in and provided quality minutes throughout the game to sustain the ‘Dogs advantage.
“Going into a game you don’t plan on playing a guy that has hardly played, but he is capable and he proved that tonight,” said White. “The thing that he did best, which was most surprising to people who know his game, was that he is a ball mover. He is a very intelligent guy, a good passer and a good shooter. He just gave us a great effort, mentally and physically.”
The lead was never in danger in the second half as Alex Hamilton turned in a typical Hamilton performance much like he did in Thursday night’s game versus Charlotte where he slashes the paint en route to a game-high in points.
Tonight he dropped in 24. Jaron Johnson also chipped in for 17 of the 44 bench points to help the team to 62.2 percent (35-of-67) from the field.
LA Tech turned 22 forced turnovers into 29 points.
Marshall was led by Ryan Taylor and Kareem Canty who recorded 17 and 16 points, respectively.
LA Tech continues C-USA action on Thursday, Jan. 30 when it takes on UTEP in El Paso, Texas. Tipoff is set for 8:05 p.m. CT.
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