Louisiana (5-2) at Louisiana Tech (6-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, December 4, 7:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Thomas Assembly Center (8,000) -- Ruston, Louisiana. Television: None. Home Record: Louisiana 3-0, LaTech 1-0. Away Record: Louisiana 1-2, LaTech 2-1. Neutral Record: Louisiana 1-0, LaTech 3-0. Conference Record: Louisiana 0-0, LaTech 0-0. Series Record: Louisiana Tech leads, 68-56.
GAME NOTES: A bayou basketball battle is brewing at the Thomas Assembly Center, as the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs entertain the Ragin' Cajuns of Louisiana tonight.
This is just the second home game of the season for a LaTech team that has rattled off six straight victories since suffering an 83-70 setback to Saint Mary's on the road in the opener. The latest win came on Sunday in Mississippi versus Jackson State in a 72-61 final. After being away from Ruston for so long, the Bulldogs are kicking off a three-game homestand with this matchup.
As for the Ragin' Cajuns, they have the luxury of bringing back all five starters from a year ago, pushing them to five wins in seven tries to kick off the 2013-14 campaign. Head coach Bob Marlin, who is in his fourth season with the team and needs just four more victories to reach 400 for his career, directed the Cajuns to an overwhelming 105-74 win against Northwestern State last week.
The Bulldogs lead the all-time series by a count of 68-56, thanks in part to a 61-59 victory in the most recent encounter in Lafayette five years ago.
Louisiana turned the ball over 18 times against Northwestern State the last time out, but that mattered little as the Ragin' Cajuns knocked down 53.2 percent from the floor and 10-of-21 behind the 3-point line in the 31-point victory at the Cajundome. Shawn Long erupted for a huge double-double consisting of 22 points and 15 rebounds, adding four blocked shots in order to offset his five turnovers. Reserves Xavian Rimmer and Kasey Shepherd accounted for 20 and 17 points, respectively, the latter also pulling down six boards and delivering six assists.
Long is now the team's leading scorer with his 20.6 ppg, although Elfrid Payton is only fractions of a point behind at 20.3 ppg. Long is also first on the unit with 11.6 rpg and 22 total rejections on the interior, while Payton helps to set up the offense from the outside with close to five and a half assists per contest.
After falling behind by a basket in the early going, the Bulldogs jumped all over Jackson State with 53.8 percent shooting from the floor in the first half, while holding the Tigers to just eight made field goals through the first 20 minutes of action. In total, Jackson State converted only 19 field goals and was 4-of-15 beyond the arc against a LaTech group that was spearheaded by Alex Hamilton and his game-high 24 points. Kenyon McNeail added 12 points off the bench and Raheem Appleby pitched in with 11, but shot just 5-of-14 from the floor.
The Bulldogs are putting five players on the floor who are scoring in double figures at this point in the campaign, led by Appleby and his 16.0 ppg, although he is shooting just 28.1 percent from beyond the arc. Hamilton (15.6 ppg) has combined with Appleby to also supply a total of 47 assists, which is only slightly better than Kenneth Smith (4.3 ppg) who has sacrificed his own offense for 39 dishes.
While the competition hasn't been overwhelming yet, the Bulldogs have still used the opportunities to experiment with different lineups and scoring combinations in order to put together a solid winning streak that Louisiana will have a tough time bringing to an end.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisiana Tech 81, Louisiana 72
12/04 10:31:50 ET