There’s no sugar coating it. No hype needed.
Louisiana Tech’s biggest games of the year take place tonight at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m. as the Bulldogs play host to the Conference USA West Division leader UAB Blazers inside the Thomas Assembly Center on Karl Malone Court.
The ‘Dogs sit in third place in the West with an 8-4 mark. The Blazers are alone at the top at 9-1.
Needless to say, this two-game series will play a major factor in who takes the crown and/or who finishes in the top two to get a first round bye in the C-USA Tournament that is a month away.
The two teams have faced off just 15 times before, but a bitter rivalry has developed since they became regulars on the schedule as C-USA foes.
For LA Tech fans, the excruciating overtime loss to the Blazers in the 2015 league tournament, held in Birmingham quickly comes to mind. It was a loss that ended the great trio of Speedy Smith, Raheem Appleby and Michale Kyser’s last chance to make the NCAA Tournament.
The Bulldogs got revenge in Ruston the following year during the regular season, scoring 56 second-half points to hand UAB its fifth loss in just 26 games.
And who could ever forget the 2017 game in Bartow Arena where 15 total players (and numerous coaches/managers) were ejected for coming onto the court after a benches’ clearing melee.
This series is intense, and there is usually a lot on the line when they play. That will certainly hold true this weekend, and on paper, both games will be defensive battles.
UAB checks in with the No. 1 defense in C-USA, ranking in the top 10 in the country in field goal percentage defense (38.5), scoring defense (57.8) and turnover margin (6.3).
The No. 2 defense in C-USA – LA Tech. The Bulldogs are allowing teams to shoot just 40.2 percent from the field. They even held North Texas, the top offense in the conference, this past weekend to well below its shooting numbers (41.5 percent from the field and 29.8 percent from three).
They get it done in different ways. LA Tech tries to suffocate opponents with its man-to-man defense. UAB on the other hand applies a multitude of zones.
Offensively though, the two squads are similar in that both use a balanced-scoring attack to get points. The Bulldogs have four players averaging double-digit points, led by Isaiah Crawford at 12.0 points and six-time C-USA Freshman of the Week honoree Kenneth Lofton, Jr. at 10.2 points and a team-high 7.1 rebounds.
The Blazers too have four guys averaging double figures, anchored by ULM transfer Michael Ertel at 13.1 points per contest.
Both matchups will be broadcast by Stadium. Fans can watch on Cox Sports Television or online at WatchStadium.com. Dave Nitz and Jack Thigpen will also call the game through the LA Tech Sports Network.