Louisiana Tech (26-4) at Denver (20-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 9, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Magness Arena (7,200) -- Denver, Colorado. Television: ROOT-RM. Home Record: LaTech 14-0, Denver 12-2. Away Record: LaTech 10-4, Denver 8-6. Neutral Record: LaTech 2-0, Denver 0-0. Conference Record: LaTech 16-1, Denver 15-2. Series Record: Louisiana Tech leads, 3-1.
GAME NOTES: No longer owners of the nation's longest win streak, the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs go back to the drawing board on Saturday as they contend against the Denver Pioneers in Western Athletic Conference action at Magness Arena.
Last week, the Bulldogs made it into the AP's Top-25 for the first time in nearly three decades, only to be bounced out after picking up two more wins and advancing their win streak to 18 in a row. It was a disappointing absence for LaTech, but maybe one that was deserving seeing as how the team was taken out by New Mexico State on Thursday night, 78-60, at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces.
As for the Pioneers, one of the newer additions to the WAC, they have a chance to earn a share of the regular season title if they can pull off the home win on Saturday. On Thursday night, Denver stomped Texas-Arlington at home in an 84-55 final, giving head coach Joe Scott his 100th career win while with the program.
Winners of all but one of their 17 games since New Year's Eve, the Pioneers are undefeated at home in conference and are 12-2 in their own facilities this season overall.
Obviously, with the Bulldogs having remained undefeated in conference play until just two nights ago, they won the first meeting of the season against Denver, 68-60, in the league opener back in late December. In terms of the all-time series, LaTech now leads by a 3-1 margin.
Louisiana Tech led by as many as 11 points in the first half, but the squad was then outscored 26-5 and never recovered as the Aggies ran away with the home win two nights ago. Raheem Appleby scored 13 points and Alex Hamilton chipped in 11 off the bench in 17 minutes of action, but the latter also shot just 3-of-11 from the floor and was guilty of four of the unit's 17 turnovers.
Appleby, who has attempted more than twice as many field goals as anyone else on the roster, leads the Bulldogs with 14.7 ppg, the only player in double figures at the moment. One of the more balanced scoring attacks that you'll find in college basketball these days, LaTech is putting up 74.2 ppg on only 41.5 percent shooting from the floor, although that's still better than the competition at 39.5 percent accuracy from the field.
Denver put together a 12-2 to begin the meeting with the Mavericks on Thursday and never looked back, forcing the visitors into 22 turnovers which it traded in for 40 points. The Pioneers shot a sensational 59.6 percent from the field and had assists on all but two of their 28 field goals, as Chris Udofia tallied a team-best 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting. Brett Olson pitched in with 18 points, Jalen Love 12 and Royce O'Neale 10 points, to go along with seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Through 28 games, each of the four players who have started every game for the Pioneers is scoring in double figures, led by Udofia with his 12.7 ppg. A 51.5 percent shooter from the floor, Udofia is also first on the unit with 97 assists and 64 blocked shots, not to mention posting 4.6 rpg and coming up with 46 steals. As a group, Denver is averaging about nine thefts per contest and is holding opponents to a mere 55.2 ppg.
The Pioneers have already shown that they can compete with anyone in the WAC and now LaTech has been exposed, which means this is the perfect time for Denver to pounce.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Denver 68, Louisiana Tech 63
03/09 10:35:56 ET