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Charlotte (17-13) vs. Louisiana Tech (25-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 13, 10:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Don Haskins Center (12,222) -- El Paso, Texas. Television: None. Home Record: Charlotte 10-5, LA Tech 13-1. Away Record: Charlotte 3-8, LA Tech 9-4. Neutral Record: Charlotte 4-0, LA Tech 3-1. Conference Record: Charlotte 7-9, LA Tech 13-3. Series Record: LA Tech leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The top-seeded Louisiana Tech Bulldogs will make their Conference USA Tournament debut as they take on the ninth-seeded Charlotte 49ers in the quarterfinal round at the Don Haskins Center on Thursday.
The winner of this contest will advance to the semifinals to face either the tournament hosting Texas-El Paso Miners or No. 4 Southern Miss.
Charlotte was impressive in its second-round matchup versus UAB on Wednesday. The 49ers led from wire-to-wire and extended their advantage to as many as 23 before settling for an 80-70 victory. Charlotte, which was a charter member of Conference USA, returned to the league this season after spending the last eight years as a member of the Atlantic 10. Charlotte is 16-8 all-time in C- USA Tournament games and won the 1999 and 2001 C-USA Tournament titles to advance to the Big Dance. Coach Alan Major's squad now owns a 4-0 ledger at neutral sites, including notable upsets of Michigan and Kansas State en route to the Puerto Rico Tip- Off Tournament Championship.
The Bulldogs are hoping to avoid another early exit from their conference tourney as they were the top seed in the 2013 Western Athletic Conference Tournament, but lost their first postseason game to a ninth-seeded UTSA squad. LA Tech has not reached the NCAA Tournament since 1991 when it was a member of the American South. Coach Michael White's squad excelled in its inaugural season as a member of the C-USA as it upped its scoring offense (81.7 ppg) by 9.2 points and its scoring margin (16.0 ppg) by seven points.
This schools met for the first time in history on Jan. 23 in Ruston. LA Tech coasted to an 80-60 win over the 49ers to take a 1-0 all-time series lead.
Although five different 49ers scored in double figures and the team shot an even 50 percent from 3-point range, their star point guard Pierria Henry finished with only five points in 25 minutes of action. Charlotte thrived as sophomore guard Denzel Ingram the way with 18 points, junior Terrence Williams added 16 points and Shawn Lester chipped in 11 points. Charlotte still has plenty of reason to go to Henry down the stretch. The 6-foot-4 sophomore is the only player in the conference that averages double-figures points (12.3 ppg), at least five rebounds (5.1 rpg) and five assists (5.9) per game. For his efforts, Henry was named to the All-C-USA Defensive Team and the All-C-USA third-team. Lester is contributing 12 ppg, while shooting 42.3 percent from the field.
Junior floor general Kenneth Smith is not usually a big-time scorer (7.1 ppg) for the Bulldogs, but his strong defensive play and the C-USA's assist title (7.9 apg) landed him on the all-conference first team. Although LA Tech's Raheem Appleby (13.8 ppg) returned to the lineup for the final three games after missing 12 games due to injury, he clocked only 23 total minutes in those games. If Appleby returns to full health during the postseason, White's team will could be very dangerous beyond the C-USA Tournament. Alex Hamilton (14.5 ppg) and Chris Anderson (12 ppg, 5.6 rpg) had no trouble picking up the slack, but they will only benefit when Appleby fully returns and commands attention.
Henry will most likely struggle again as he collides with one of college basketball's best perimeter defenders. LA Tech has only one questionable loss on its resume through 31 games. The Bulldogs should be able to advance, although the 49ers have defeated teams with just as much talent as LA Tech already this season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisiana Tech 75, Charlotte 70
03/13 10:34:14 ET