UAB came into Ruston with as the C-USA West Division leader with just one conference loss on its record.
The Blazers left Ruston with twice as many L’s compliments of Louisiana Tech (17-6, 10-4), who rode its team defense, its offensive production from a couple of underclassmen and its home court advantage (albeit with limited capacity) to win 70-58 on Friday and 69-64 on Saturday for the sweep.
Another reason why the Bulldogs prevailed in both games (and probably the No. 1 reason) is how well they took care of the basketball.
The Blazers (16-4, 9-3) came into the weekend as one of the premiere teams, not just in C-USA but also in the country, at forcing turnovers and then scoring points off of those turnovers.
LA Tech turned it over only 25 times and actually finished with a combined +1 turnover margin.
“It was exactly what we needed,” said head coach Eric Konkol. “You don’t beat UAB if you turn the basketball over. They are electric in transition. If you turn it over against them, you are in real trouble. Our team did a really nice job limiting our turnovers. It was big for us.”
The Bulldogs were a little more dominant in game one. Sophomore point guard Cobe Williams got the team going in the first half, scoring 13 of his 15 points in that stanza, to help give LA Tech a 40-29 advantage at halftime.
The team ran away with it in the second half, building as much as a 19-point lead thanks to the inside presence of Kenneth Lofton, Jr. who overpowered every defender in his path. The six-time C-USA Freshman of the Week honoree ended up putting together one of his complete performances with a career-high 21 points to go along with 12 rebounds.
Game two on Saturday played out much differently, as have practically every second game in these back-to-back conference series.
LA Tech was ice cold against the half-court zone of UAB, but with its stingy defense, was still in the ball game and even took a 34-31 lead into the locker room after Williams buried a deep three to break a tie before half.
Each team made a run in the second half and it was a one-point game with a little over five minutes to go. The late-game experience of the Bulldogs started to shine as they executed play after play to perfection, especially the two alley-oop dunks against the zone pressure.
Also shining in those final minutes – and all weekend long – was the 1,200 strong inside the Thomas Assembly Center that helped propel the Bulldogs to the sweep.
“It was a total team effort,” said Konkol. “Not just our players and our staff, but also our administration and our fans. It was a great environment. It felt like all 1,200 fans had a megaphone. Their voices were amplified. They really helped us get these two wins.”
LA Tech returns to action at Middle Tennessee in a two-game series that starts on Friday at 6 p.m.
Photo of freshman Kenneth Lofton, Jr. – photo credit Darrell James