Louisiana Tech had blown a seven point lead against Utah State and a fifteen point lead in the second half against Nevada. Tech scored just two points in the final five minutes against the Aggies. They were on the same pace against Nevada, watching their fifteen point lead turn into a seven point deficit in the second half. Gibson and Rolle got the game back to a tie only to see Luke Babbit drain a long three at the buzzer.
It's easy to dwell on the blown leads. A closer look shows a team on the verge of getting it. The Bulldogs showed mental toughness to get back in the Nevada game. They could have given up and let Nevada cruise like Utah State did. The first half of both games showed that Tech can be physical and beat up the best teams in the WAC. The Bulldogs locked down both teams inside and built sizable early leads. Now is the time for the Dawgs to regroup and put together a complete effort in the next game.
Other positive signs are the emergence of Olu Ashaolu and the development of a second unit. Ashaolu looked a little lost early in the season, showing definite signs of not playing in a game for a year and a half. He is more confident no and he is using his 235 pound frame to get to the rim. Ashaolu's athleticism inside combines with Rolle to give Coach Kerry Rupp two terrific playmakers inside. Every shot and rebound is challenged, and the Dawgs are controlling the paint. Ashaolu leads a second unit the added fellow Canadian Yonas Berhe. Berhe gives Coach Rupp quickness off the bench and a natural point guard. Shawn Oliverson and David Jackson do a good job backing up Rolle and Kenny Cooper, and Brandon Gibson is another freshman gaining Coach Rupp's trust.
The Bulldogs are putting things together and it is not too late. They are 1-3 in the WAC, but starting off on the road and hosting two of the top WAC teams is not an easy way to start. Coach Rupp will find a way to get the most out of his strengths. Cooper can not be stopped when he gets position down low. Gibson is a great leader and Rolle brings all the winning intangibles to the floor. Guyton, James Loe, and David Jackson can all hit open shots when Gibson or Cooper is doubled. If they can be put in position to take advantage of the double teams, they will come through more often than not.
The Bulldogs are playing with defensive intensity most of the game. They have had stretches in every game where they lose focus for a stretch or two and allow the other teams to go on a run. Tech has the ability to dominate on defense. They also have the ability to score in many ways. The Utah State game left Tech with just 37 points. The Bulldogs are way to talented to score so few points.
Look for this week's games to wake up Louisiana Tech. They now know they can play with any team in the WAC. They also know they have to bring 100% effort for the entire game. I believe the Dawgs will rise to the challenge and get on the winning track.