by Malcolm Butler
With preseason Conference USA Player of the Year Isaiah Crawford sitting on the bench for the majority of the game due to foul trouble, Louisiana Tech fell victim to a Colorado State second half rally, dropping an 81-73 decision in the season opener at Moby Arena in Fort Collins.
Trailing 38-36 early in the second half, Tech (0-1) used a 17-4 run ignited by a pair of three-pointers by Tahlik Chavez and one by Devin Ree to build a 53-42 lead with 14:08 to play in the game.
“I thought we came out and fought,” said Tech head coach Talvin Hester. “I thought for about 32 minutes of this game, we played together and played inspired. For about four or five minutes, we separated. I have got to get the team to play 40 minutes. Road games are tough. Of course, we would have loved to of had Isaiah Crawford more.”
However, the lead was short-lived as Colorado State answered. The Rams capitalized on a 17-5 run to retake the advantage on a layup by Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year Isaiah Stevens with 9:41 to play.
Tech missed 12 straight shots from the field during the stretch and Colorado State continued to execute offensively, eventually pulling out to a 70-59 lead with 4:29 to play. The Rams shot 64 percent (16-25) from the field in the second half while scoring 48 points after intermission.
“I thought we were sucking wind a little bit,” said Hester. “Our legs stopped moving. We held them to 38.5 percent in the first half, but we did not do that in the second half. Our intensity has to be matched.”
Crawford barely saw the court for the Bulldogs, playing just seven minutes in the first half due to picking up two fouls and then only four more minutes in the second half as he was whistled for fouls No. 3, 4 and 5. He finished with just six points and two rebounds in limited action.
Tech led almost the entire first half — Rams only lead was 33-32 with 1:21 to play — as the Bulldogs received production from a number of players while limiting Stevens to just four first half points. However, the Rams point guard ended with 15 points and 10 assists on the night.
Newcomers Jaylin Henderson (16), Sean Newman (15) and Chavez (11) combined to score 42 points as all three ended the game in double figures. Dravon Mangum added seven points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
“Sean is really good,” said Hester. “He is really steady. Hopefully we can him to the point where he does not have to play 32 minutes and he can play fresh a little more. I told everyone when we recruited him that he was going to be a fan favorite at Louisiana Tech.”
Tech outrebounded Colorado State 39-23 in the game, holding the Rams without a single offensive rebounds for the entirety of the contest.
“That was an emphasis coming in,” said Hester. “We struggled with rebounding last season. In the first half, we did an unbelievable job of stopping them from getting rebounds. We need to maintain getting stops and getting those rebounds.”
The Bulldogs return to action Monday when they host Lyon College.