Friday night’s 68-63 victory at North Texas confirmed Louisiana Tech’s status as a big ‘Dog in the Conference USA men’s basketball race, but the Bulldogs came up just shy of a big stride forward in the standings after dropping a 57-55 decision Saturday afternoon in Denton, Texas.
Now 15-6 overall, 8-4 in the conference, they’re still in range of C-USA’s top team, UAB (16-2, 9-1), and have the Blazers at home this weekend, Friday night and Saturday afternoon at the Thomas Assembly Center. LA Tech has won seven of its last nine games heading into the UAB series.
A career-high 27 points from sophomore forward Isaiah Crawford fueled the Bulldogs’ milestone win Friday night. He sank 12 of 15 shots, including all three of his 3-pointers, scoring 18 in the second half as Tech handed UNT its first homecourt loss in eight outings this season.
The ‘Dogs shot 53 percent overall and outscored the Mean Green 24-10 in the game’s last 10 minutes. Crawford, from nearby Fort Worth, scored 12 of his team’s 16 points to spark Tech’s recovery from a 53-44 deficit into a 60-59 edge, as the visitors went on top to stay with 2:54 remaining.
“He was awesome,” said Bulldogs coach Eric Konkol. “From hitting 3s to having some big plays around the basket with contact, he did a little bit of everything tonight. He came up with some monster rebounds on the other end as well. He is coming of age, hitting that rhythm as a sophomore now.”
Dallas native Cobe Williams overcame multiple injuries to register 11 points, four assists and zero turnovers. A pivotal factor: his defense on the other team’s point guard, reigning C-USA Player of the Year Javion Hamlet, who had only seven points and three turnovers.
“You can see the difference Cobe Williams makes for us,” said Konkol. “He had to take some time away in the first half with an ankle injury. It changes us on both sides of the floor. His defense on Hamlet tonight was just sensational.”
Freshman Kenneth Lofton posted his fifth double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Having to play just 16 hours after game one, both teams emptied their tanks in the Saturday matinee. LA Tech held UNT (10-6, 6-2 C-USA) to a season-low 19 made field goals and their worst shooting performance in conference action.
However, the Bulldogs only made 16 shots and turned the ball over 17 times. In the final six minutes, they were able to make just one of their five shot attempts and had three empty possessions due to turnovers.
UNT powered out to a 26-9 lead, but barely withstood a fierce fight by the visitors.
“North Texas came out very strong and we got into foul trouble early,” said Konkol. “They extended the lead, which put us in a position where we had to amplify our toughness.
“Really proud of our team with the way they fought back into the game. We were able to take the lead momentarily, but we just could not make enough plays on the offensive end down the stretch. They were able to make one more play than we did.”
After Williams sank two free throws getting Tech within 55-53 with 3:30 left, the Mean Green did not make a field goal the rest of the way, but neither did the Bulldogs.
Photo: courtesy LA Tech Athletics