By: Kane McGuire (Louisiana Tech Athletic Communications)
RUSTON – Louisiana Tech broke out the broom on Saturday, completing a two-game sweep of division leader UAB with a final score of 69-64 inside the Thomas Assembly Center on Karl Malone Court.
Down one and in a dogfight with over five minutes to go, LA Tech (17-6, 10-4 C-USA) rode the back of point guard Cobe Williams and a raucous crowd down the stretch to hand UAB (16-4, 9-3 C-USA) the same number of losses as they came into Ruston with.
“We were plus-two in turnover margin against a premiere takeaway team,” said head coach Eric Konkol on the key to victory. “We were able to execute just enough down the stretch against their zone. Having 18 assists was huge on 25 baskets. The guys shared it. It showed the unselfishness of our team.
“Our student section brought it. There were moments I called on them. Our guys called on them, and they brought it. We draw from their energy. It felt like each one of them had a megaphone they were so loud.”
The Bulldogs came out and connected on three of their first six three-pointers, one each from Isaiah Crawford, Kalob Ledoux and Exavian Christon, to build a 15-6 lead with 12:35 to go in the first half.
Then LA Tech went cold. Ice cold.
The team missed 12 consecutive shots. Lifting them out of the dark shooting hole was Stacey Thomas who came off the bench to score six straight points.
Then it was Williams who delivered his end-of-first-half magic again with a deep three just before the buzzer sounded to break the fourth tie of the game and give the ‘Dogs a 34-31 edge at the half.
Still clinging to a three-point lead with 18:29 to play, LA Tech sprung together an 8-0 run that was capped off by a steal from Christon and a fastbreak layup from Amorie Archibald, forcing a UAB timeout as the visitors faced their largest deficit of the game at 46-35.
The timeout must have settled down the Blazers as they countered with a 12-0 run to take a slim 47-46 advantage (their first lead since the opening minute of the game).
Quan Jackson got a favorable bounce on his three-point attempt to give UAB another one-point lead at 55-54 with 5:34 to go. Then came Williams and the added energy from the crowd.
The sophomore drilled his second three of the contest, sank one of two free throws, then served up an alley-oop to JaColby Pemberton for the dunk.
“Cobe is the engine of our train,” said Konkol. “He pulls us. His energy lifts us up. I am really proud of his assist-turnover ratio today. He had great command today in getting us organized; both in pushing the basketball and getting us organized against their zones.”
The execution on offense continued in the final minutes as Archibald found Crawford in the middle of the zone and the sophomore got the floater to fall.
Then with one minute to go, Crawford and Pemberton connected for another alley-oop slam to make it 65-61. Made free throws, coupled with two defensive stops, gave the Bulldogs the victory.
“The first alley-oop was drawn up. The second one was a little bit of improvisation,” said Konkol. “We have some reads against the zone and some set plays, but we saved a couple at the end.
“You always start with effort and I thought we had that. You also have to have execution. On the offensive end, I thought the guys did an excellent job executing the plays down the stretch.”
For a second straight day, Williams and Kenneth Lofton, Jr. were the lone Bulldogs in double-figures. Williams had a game-high 16 points to go along with five assists and zero turnovers. Lofton, Jr. scored 13 and had a team-high seven rebounds. The team shot 47.2 percent from the field.
UAB shot 45.6 percent for the game. Tavin Lovan finished with a game-high 19 points.
Next on the schedule for LA Tech is its last road trip of the regular season at Middle Tennessee. The first of a two-game series is set for Friday, Feb. 19 at 6 p.m.