Men’s college basketball: Tech downs ULM again

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By Kane McGuire, Louisiana Tech Assistant Athletic Director/Athletic Communications 

MONROE – Louisiana Tech picked up its first road win of the season on Tuesday night, downing I-20 neighbor ULM for a second time this season by a final score of 68-57 inside Fant-Ewing Coliseum.

LA Tech (7-2) was not perfect by any stretch, turning the ball over 18 times and only getting 24 points in the paint, a place where they have lived as of late.

But behind some strong senior leadership, the Bulldogs were able to overcome an eight-point deficit in the second half and hold ULM (2-5) to just 13 points in the final 14 minutes of the contest to win their eighth straight over the Warhawks.

“There was some real leadership that happened out on that floor,” said head coach Eric Konkol.  “JaColby Pemberton plays with an edge and really took it to another level.  And it was contagious with the other guys.  We needed to play a whole lot harder and better and we did.  We started to take care of the basketball late and did some different things with our defense.  This was a gutsy performance by our team.”

It was a game of mini-runs for the longest.  An 8-0 run here and an 8-0 run there.  The Warhawks found one of those runs early in the second half, getting back-to-back three-pointers from Erie Olonade and Luke Phillips to grab their largest lead at 44-36.  The run forced a timeout by Konkol with 14:41 left to go.

The lead was short-lived as the Bulldogs dominated the remainder of the game.  The team started taking care of the rock with just two TOs while forcing six with their full-court pressure giving an assist. 

The baskets started to fall as well, going 11-of-19 during that stretch and allowing ULM to make just five field goals (out of 21 shots).  It was a sequence where LA Tech outscored the home team, 31-13 the rest of the way.

The biggest moments came when Pemberton drilled an open three-pointer and then Kenneth Lofton, Jr. grabbed one of his career-tying 12 rebounds and got the putback to go to make it a 56-50 advantage which matched their largest lead at the time. 

“ULM has a defense that really tries to go under ball screens and pack the paint,” said Konkol.  “And when we got the ball inside, they were sending bodies.  We looked to lift the floor and drive it.  I thought Cobe was able to get to the basket and get layups.  And then we got some offensive rebounds and kept getting opportunities, made some free throws.”

Exavian Christon was the one who kept the ‘Dogs in it from the outset, hitting three straight triples, as ULM got off to a hot start with multiple seven-point leads in the early going. 

“I’m so proud of Exavian,” said Konkol.  “It has been a long road.  He has been putting in extra time at practice.  He kept us in the game.  Without those buckets, it’s a different game in that first half.  The toughness of those seniors, they did not want to lose this game.”

LA Tech made an 8-0 run, grabbing its first lead (28-26) of the contest at the 3:58 mark with a three by Kalob Ledoux.  More turnovers (11 in the first half) resulted in just a 34-32 halftime edge.

The team ended up shooting 44.2 percent from the field (23-52) with three players in double-figures – Williams (13), Ledoux (13) and Pemberton (11).  Christon registered a season-high nine points and Lofton, Jr. added seven points and two steals to his rebounding total.

For a fourth straight game, the ‘Dogs held their opponent to 40 percent or less shooting from the field.  ULM was 24-of-63 for 38.1 percent and had three Warhawks score double-digit points, led by Chris Efretuei with 12.  Their leading scorer, Russel Harrison, went 3-of-16 from the field.   

After Christmas break, LA Tech will begin Conference USA action against Marshall on Friday, Jan. 1.  Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. inside the Thomas Assembly Center on ESPN+.

For all the latest in Bulldog Basketball, follow them on Twitter (@LATechHoops), Instagram (@LATechHoops) and Facebook (LATechMBB).

— Featured photo by Emerald McIntyre