By Kane McGuire/Louisiana Tech Athletics
RUSTON – Louisiana Tech never trailed on Thursday night, getting double-figure scoring from four players to cruise to a 72-56 victory over Rice inside the Thomas Assembly Center on Karl Malone Court.
LA Tech (13-4, 4-1 C-USA) used an early 9-0 run, with all nine of those points coming from DaQuan Bracey, to take an 11-2 lead. Once the lead got into double figures, it stayed there as the Bulldogs improved to 9-0 at home this season.
“We talked all week that we need to come out and play with great energy,” said head coach Eric Konkol. “We wanted to pick the tempo up. With Isaiah Crawford out, we ended up going a little smaller with JaColby Pemberton. I thought we were crisp on offense and we were able to get some stops and turnovers to turn into better offense.”
The only blemish on the stat sheet for the ‘Dogs was their three-point shooting, making only five total. However, so much else went in their favor thanks in large part to the team’s energy on both ends of the floor.
First, LA Tech dominated the paint by outscoring Rice (9-9, 1-4 C-USA) in that area, 46-16. Second, the Bulldogs had 10 steals while forcing 15 turnovers. They also had a plus-10 rebounding edge and held the Owls, a deadly three-point shooting team, to 29 percent from beyond the arc.
“We did a great job getting the ball into the paint,” said Konkol. “That was a major point of emphasis against Rice because of the way they switch on defense and use their zone to try to keep teams out of the paint. We were able to get the ball inside and make good decisions.”
One of Rice’s best offensive stretches came early in the second half when they made three of its first four field goals to slice the deficit down to 12.
LA Tech countered with a quick 7-0 run and later got back-to-back threes from Bracey midway through the stanza to essentially put the game out of reach for the Owls.
The senior guard finished with a team-high 15 points. Derric Jean had an all-around performance, going 6-of-7 from the field for 13 points and adding a season-high eight dimes.
“The energy on the court felt good,” said Jean. “We come into each practice with high energy. Tonight, we played together and it worked out for us. At certain times, we played with a small lineup and the ball never stuck. Everybody got a touch and we all contributed.”
Kalob Ledoux came off the bench to notch 11 points and Mubarak Muhammed registered his fourth double-double of the season with 10 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Trey Murphy III was the hot shooter for the Owls, making six of their nine threes to help register a game-high 20 points.
LA Tech returns to the TAC on Saturday, Jan. 18 to face North Texas. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. on ESPN+.
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