Louisiana Tech (22-3) at Idaho (9-15)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 16, 10:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Cowan Spectrum (7,000) -- Moscow, Idaho. Television: None. Home Record: LaTech 11-0, Idaho 5-7. Away Record: LaTech 9-3, Idaho 4-7. Neutral Record: LaTech 2-0, Idaho 0-1. Conference Record: LaTech 13-0, Idaho 5-9. Series Record: Louisiana Tech leads, 11-5.
GAME NOTES: The top team in the Western Athletic Conference hits the hardwood at the Cowan Spectrum on Saturday night, as the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs get after the Idaho Vandals.
Receiving some votes in the latest Associated Press Poll, the Bulldogs are one of only a handful of teams that are undefeated in conference play this late into the season. On Valentine's Day the squad managed to get by Seattle on the road at Key Arena in a 64-58 final. The victory moved LaTech to 13-0 in league play and was the team's 14 consecutive win overall, the second-longest run in program history.
Were it not for a couple of awkward defeats against the likes of McNeese State and Northwestern State on the road months ago, surely the Bulldogs would be getting more recognition on a national scale.
As for the Vandals, a group which is 5-9 in conference play and in sixth place in the standings as a result, they were treated to their third straight setback on Thursday night when they fell to Texas-Arlington in a 71-68 final.
With a perfect conference record, obviously the Bulldogs took care of Idaho in the first meeting of the season, although the Vandals did not go quietly in a 72-66 final at the Thomas Assembly Center in Ruston last month. Idaho, which swept the season series last year, trails the Bulldogs now by a count of 11-5.
The Bulldogs didn't appear to have that killer instinct on Thursday night when they met up with Seattle, but after 40 minutes all that mattered was that LaTech had at least one more point than the Redhawks. Shooting only 37.9 percent from the field and 14-of-26 at the free-throw line, but the Bulldogs gave the hosts plenty of opportunity to capture the victory, but still LaTech held on behind 15 points by Chris Anderson and 10 by Brandon Gibson off the bench.
The Bulldogs have learned how to spread the wealth this season as only three players are averaging more than 20 minutes per game when the team clashes with fellow WAC members. Raheem Appleby (10.8 ppg) is one of those three and is the only player overall with scoring in double figures, even as he shoots a woeful 19.3 percent behind the three-point line. As a whole, LaTech is producing a solid 71.1 ppg while limiting opponents to 60.6 ppg by forcing those teams into an average of almost 18 miscues per contest.
Idaho outscored the Mavericks by a 25-10 margin at the free-throw line two nights ago, but the defense for the Vandals were lacking in their pressure behind the 3-point line where the visitors made good on 9-of-14 attempts in the three-point decision. Stephen Madison made a splash in his return to the starting lineup as he tallied a game-high 25 points, while Kyle Barone registered a double-double with 21 points and a team-best 10 rebounds in the setback as well.
In conference play Barone continues to lead the way for the Vandals with 17.4 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, shooting not only 55.1 percent from the field but also 83.8 percent at the free-throw line where the team as a whole is hitting on 77.0 percent, compared to only 68.4 percent for the opposition. Madison (14.2 ppg) and Connor Hill (12.4 ppg) continually show up as key contributors on offense, even if the wins are still hard to come by.
At some point the Bulldogs will probably hit a tough opponent during the conference schedule, but even on the road this weekend the team should be able to take care of business versus Idaho.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisiana Tech 69, Idaho 58
02/16 10:45:14 ET