GAME NOTES: Nationally-ranked for the first time in nearly three decades, the 25th-ranked Louisiana Tech Bulldogs continue their run through the Western Athletic Conference on Saturday night as they host the San Jose State Spartans at the Thomas Assembly Center.
A perfect 15-0 in conference play at the moment, the Bulldogs are one of only five Division I programs entering the weekend that has yet to be handed a league loss. Louisiana Tech has been so dominant that it has not lost since the middle of December, a run of 17 straight games which is second only to Akron at the moment.
On Thursday night, the Bulldogs hosted Utah State and ripped apart the ailing Aggies at home, 84-61, which means LaTech continues to build upon its best- ever conference record in any league since the program began.
While Tech is closing in on claiming the regular-season crown in the WAC, currently two games ahead of Denver with three to play, the Spartans are dangerously close to claiming the last spot in the conference with a mark of only 3-12. Streaking in the opposite direction, SJSU has now fallen in 11 straight decisions after bowing to Texas-Arlington on Thursday night, 81-74.
The Bulldogs lead the all-time series by a count of 16-9, thanks to a 76-54 blowout win in the first meeting of the season back in January in California.
Except for David Andoh who finished with just a single point, every starter for the Spartans scored in double figures but they still suffered the loss at UTA a few nights back. Louis Garrett converted 5-of-10 behind the 3-point line as he finished with 25 points, followed by D.J. Brown with 16 points, six boards and four assists. Chris Cunningham registered another double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds, while Xavier Jones logged 11 points and five dishes.
In the last four outings, the Spartans have had a different leading scorer each time out which means consistency isn't a top priority for the group, Then again, suspending leading scorer James Kinney (20.6 ppg) has also made a mess of things in San Jose where the team is averaging 62.5 ppg even when taking into account the efforts of Kinney who still shows up in the stats. Cunningham stands as the only active double-digit scorer for the group with 10.4 ppg, leading the way on the glass as well with 9.2 rpg in what has become a futile effort the last two months.
The defense for the Bulldogs was all over Utah State on Thursday, limiting the visitors to just 35.7 percent shooting from the field, which included a dismal 3-of-16 showing beyond the arc. Tech won by 23 points, but really the game was never even that close as the hosts not only shot 50 percent from the floor, they also made good on 11-of-21 on the perimeter and turned the ball over just six times. Brandon Gibson scored 20 points, Raheem Appleby 15 and Kenyon McNeail 10 as the Bulldogs spread the wealth.
To say that Louisiana Tech runs a balanced offense might be the understatement of the year, considering the team generates 71.7 ppg against WAC foes and has just one player, Appleby, scoring in double figures with his 12.3 ppg. More than anything, it is the defense these days for the Bulldogs that is making it look so easy as they hold opponents to 60.7 ppg on a feeble 26.6 percent shooting behind the 3-point line. LaTech is converting a modest 34.3 percent on the perimeter, but the squad has knocked down 120 triples in 15 league games, compared to only 65 for the competition.
This could be one of those tricky trap games that the Bulldogs might possibly look beyond, but something says that even if the hosts take SJSU lightly, there's little chance of the Spartans scoring a surprise upset on the road.