GAME NOTES: The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs try to make an immediate impact in their first year in Conference USA, as they shoot for the tournament title against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane at the Don Haskins Center.
The Bulldogs, who recently made the move to C-USA from the Western Athletic Conference, joined several squads at the top of the league standings this season with a record of 13-3, but they were the ones named as the top seeds in the tournament. Winners of six straight and 10 of the last 11 outings overall, the Bulldogs began their run to the championship round with an 86-65 thrashing of Charlotte on Thursday night, and followed that with an 88-70 beating of fourth-seeded Southern Miss on Friday.
As for the second-seeded Golden Hurricane, a team which also played in the WAC at one point, they've been here in C-USA a bit longer than Louisiana Tech but are also seeking their first tournament title. On Thursday Tulsa made quick work of Tulane in the quarterfinals of the 19th annual event with a 70-49 victory, but then had to fight to the end versus third-seeded Middle Tennessee yesterday, 76-69.
The Bulldogs won the only regular-season battle between these two squads back on Feb. 6 by a score of 66-61 at the Thomas Assembly Center in Ruston. Tulsa shot just 37.0 percent from the field and 3-of-18 behind the 3-point line in that meeting. As a result, the all-time series now stands at 7-4 in favor of Louisiana Tech.
James Woodard scored 19 points, leading four starters in double figures, as the Tulsa Golden Hurricane defeated the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders by seven in the semifinals of the tournament in Els Paso. Rashad Smith was responsible for another 16 points for second-seeded Tulsa, followed by Tim Peete and Shaquille Harrison with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Defensively, Tulsa forced the Blue Raiders into 21 turnovers, which were then traded in for 22 points.
Woodard (15.3 ppg) has been the leading scorer for Tulsa in three straight games and four times in the last five, while Smith is the other active double- digit scorer, when taking into consideration the entire campaign, with his 12.3 ppg. During the regular-season, against league foes the Golden Hurricane generated 74.1 ppg and held opponents to just 62.6 ppg.
Alex Hamilton scored 18 points, leading five players in double figures, as Louisiana Tech captured an 18-point win over the Southern Miss Golden Eagles in the semifinals of the tourney last night. Kenneth Smith registered the fourth double-double of his career as he tallied 16 points and 10 assists for top-seeded Louisiana Tech. Jaron Johnson and Kenyon McNeail both dropped in 15 points and Chris Anderson 13, while Michale Kyser pulled down a team-best 10 rebounds. The squad went from shooting a mere 33.3 percent from the field in the first half to 60.7 percent after intermission.
Through 33 games, the Bulldogs are outscoring the opposition by an average of 18.4 ppg as they generate a hefty 81.7 ppg. Hamilton may lead the group with 14.7 ppg, but he is shooting just 28.3 percent from 3-point range. A better gauge for LaTech's success this season is Smith (7.2 ppg) who has amassed a staggering 255 assists, against only 75 turnovers.
Both of these teams are used to having their way this season, but with so many scoring options and Smith more than ready to speed up the pace for the Bulldogs, expect Louisiana Tech to grab the title today.
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