By Kane McGuire (Louisiana Tech Athletic Communications)
EL Paso, Tx (Louisiana Tech Athletic Communications) – Exactly a year after having surgery to repair a season-ending knee injury that he suffered inside the Don Haskins Center, Isaiah Crawford went off for a career-high 25 points to help lead Louisiana Tech to a 73-55 victory over UTEP on Saturday night.
LA Tech (12-5, 5-3 C-USA) never led in last night’s loss and gave up the second-most points this season. It was a complete 180 in the win as the Bulldogs never trailed, holding UTEP (7-7, 3-5 C-USA) to 34.7 percent shooting and forcing 16 Miner turnovers.
The 18-point win matched the largest for the ‘Dogs in El Paso who were able to avoid a C-USA road sweep for a second time by coming up with a Saturday victory.
“We had a hard time guarding UTEP last night,” said head coach Eric Konkol. “We were able to use a few things that we saw in the second half from the first game and formulated a game plan for today. Credit goes to our guys, they were locked in and all on board. They worked really hard to come away with a big road win.”
Eleven of those forced turnovers by the Bulldogs came in the first half, fueling a 20-6 run, including back-to-back dunks by Crawford and Cobe Williams, to give the visiting team a 32-16 edge with 3:03 left in the first half.
UTEP’s Souley Boum poured in seven straight points though, shrinking LA Tech’s halftime lead to 32-23. Boum came out and scored four quick points to slice the Miner deficit down to five.
The Bulldogs were still clinging to a five-point lead at 39-34 with 15:55 still to go, but Crawford did his version of taking over by scoring seven straight points. And after making the team’s lone three in the first half, the sophomore drilled three in the second half.
“It was a special night for Isaiah,” said Konkol. “There are memories of coming to this place and you remember Isaiah went down with the injury last year. He has worked really hard to get back to this point, and not just back to this point, but better. He is finding his spots. He is really growing as a player.”
Extra threes by Xaiver Armstead and Exavian Christon helped put the game out of the reach as LA Tech built as much as a 24-point lead at 64-40.
Crawford went 8-of-12 from the field and 4-of-5 from beyond the arc, scoring the most points in a single game this season for the ‘Dogs. He also had a team-high eight rebounds.
After recording a double-double on Friday, Kenneth Lofton, Jr. registered 11 points and seven rebounds. JaColby Pemberton was the third Bulldog in double figures with 10 points. As a team, LA Tech shot 46.2 percent from the field, outscored UTEP 28-12 in the paint and sank 19 free throws.
“We are throwing inside a whole lot more,” said Konkol. “The touches that Junior and Drew are getting with their size. We want to get the ball inside and play inside out. We talk about getting to the paint every single day. UTEP is a team that does a great job of limiting three-point shots. We needed to find some lanes and areas to penetrate and punch the paint and be aggressive around the rim.”
Boum was the lone Miner with double-digit points for UTEP, scoring 23.
Next up for LA Tech is a road trip to Hattiesburg, Mississippi to face Southern Miss on Thursday, Jan. 28. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.