Contributed by: LA Tech Athletic Communications
RUSTON – In a back-and-forth game with nine ties and 13 lead changes, it was Louisiana Tech who made the winning plays in the end, coming away with a 72-67 victory on Saturday afternoon over UTSA to remain undefeated at home this season in the Thomas Assembly Center on Karl Malone Court.
With the win and the results around Conference USA, LA Tech (17-10, 7-7 C-USA) finished the league’s scheduled slate in a four-way tie for seventh place and in the 6-10 pod. Opponents, dates and locations for bonus play will be announced tonight.
It only seemed fitting that today’s contest against UTSA (15-12, 9-5 C-USA) would go down to the wire. That’s the way it has been the past two seasons in Ruston when the Roadrunners made the big plays in the end.
However, it was the Bulldogs who came up big when they needed to the most. With the game tied at 64-64 with 2:04 to go, LA Tech made its lone field goal – a layup by DaQuan Bracey. They also made six straight free throws with four coming from Bracey and the other two from Ra’Shawn Langston.
Defensively for that same stretch, the ‘Dogs were able to force the Roadrunners into taking six contested shots (all three-pointers). They made only one.
“We knew we were playing against a very good team with two dynamic scorers and other really good pieces,” said head coach Eric Konkol. “I challenged our guys to have a great defensive effort for 40 minutes and that is what we got.
“I thought the effort that our guys put out, making shots difficult and rebounding, even though we gave up a couple late. And executing down the stretch. Getting stops and making big free throws, that is what you have to do against a good team and that is what they did.”
LA Tech’s bench, made up of only Langston and Mubarak Muhammed, were instrumental in the win. In the first half alone, they combined to make 14 points to help the Bulldogs have a slim 35-34 halftime edge.
The two continued their strong play on both ends of the floor into the second half as well with Langston finishing with 13 points, hitting three triples, and Muhammed coming a point short of a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds.
“I told Ra’Shawn at shoot around today that he needed to stay locked and loaded,” Konkol said. “He came out firing. He has really been a microwave for us off the bench with his scoring. He made some really good plays on the offensive end, but I thought defensively he chased two of those guys around and played really hard and made things really difficult.
“Same thing for Mo. We really ask him to jack a lot of life into our team when he comes into the game. He got six offensive rebounds. Both those guys were instrumental in this win.”
Anthony Duruji was a monster in the paint for a second straight game, recording his third double-double with 11 points and 13 boards to go along with three rejections.
And then there was Bracey yet again. He followed up his 28-point performance from two nights ago by scoring a game-high 23 points which included three three-pointers and the huge free throws in the closing minutes.
“I think we handled [the tension] pretty well,” Bracey said. “On the road, we have had games like this that slipped away. We handled it today and the other day.”
Against one of, if not the, best offense in C-USA, UTSA was held to 42 percent shooting from the field and only made five of its 29 three-point attempts (17 percent). Two of the top scorers in all of college basketball – Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace – combined for 42 points, but it took 41 shots for them to do it.
LA Tech was 23-of-57 from the field for 40 percent. They also made 18 of their 26 free throw attempts.