GETTING INSIDE

Louisiana Tech had the best record in the WAC at the Christmas break, although the Bulldogs didn't have the most arduous of nonconference schedules.

"11-2 is 11-2," coach Kerry Rupp said. That's true, but the two losses came in the team's toughest games -- at New Mexico (an 81-52 loss) and at Arizona (an 83-67 defeat). The rest of the slate was questionable at best, but the Bulldogs did what they had to do and set themselves up for plenty of momentum heading into conference play.

The star of the show has been athletic senior guard Kyle Gibson, who has been making a pitch for WAC first-team all-conference honors after placing on the second team last season.

Gibson was averaging 21.1 points through the first 13 games, and was proving to be a threat from everywhere. He was shooting 44.2 percent from the field, 37 percent behind the 3-point line and 88.8 percent from the free throw line.

With his athleticism and ability to drive and create contact, he was getting to the foul line more than eight times per game, hitting 95 of 107 attempts. At one point in December, he led the nation in most free throws made.

One of the questions for Louisiana Tech as it heads into conference play is whether its starting five can hold up. The Bulldogs are not a deep team, and Gibson was averaging 35.1 minutes per game. That only figures to inch higher as the competition gets tougher.

NOTES, QUOTES --Louisiana Tech's 11 wins are the program's most Division I nonconference victories since 1990.

--G Kyle Gibson either led or tied the team in scoring in nine of the first 13 games.

--Louisiana Tech beat Texas-Pan American twice this season by nearly identical scores. The Bulldogs opened the season with an 80-62 road victory at UTPA and then posted an 81-60 home victory on Dec. 22.

JANUARY AT A GLANCE: Can the Bulldogs get a little help from the bench? This is a six-man team, with inconsistent contributions after that, sometimes Darius Redding and Anson Bartlett helping out on the perimeter. Louisiana Tech begins conference play at home against Nevada on Jan.

2. The Wolf Pack isn't very deep, either, but Tech's next two opponents -- Utah State and Idaho -- are. It will be interesting to see if the Bulldogs can hold up against those deeper teams, especially if they continue to play at a fast pace.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We don't charter, and most teams in the WAC don't charter. When they do, it's to Louisiana Tech. Sometimes, we'll come back from a road trip to play somebody, and they're actually sitting there waiting for us." -- Coach Kerry Rupp, in the Arizona Daily Star, on the difficulties of being an out-of-region team in the WAC. Rupp's team played Arizona in Tucson in December.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL SEASON RECAP: Louisiana Tech built a gaudy record on a soft nonconference schedule, and the two losses -- at New Mexico and Arizona -- could serve a purpose in helping the Bulldogs get ready for the kind of travel they will see in the WAC. One of the positive developments has been the improvement of forward Olu Ashaolu, a 6-7, 220-pound sophomore, who began the season with four consecutive double-doubles. As a full-time starter this season, he was averaging 11.8 points and 8.5 rebounds through 13 games.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- PG DeAndre Brown, SG Kyle Gibson, SF Jamel Guyton, PF Olu Ashaolu, C Magnum Rolle. Key Subs -- F David Jackson, F Darius Redding, G Yonas Berhe, G Anson Bartlett.

GAME REVIEW: Louisiana Tech 87, Murray State 81 Louisiana Tech 79, McNeese State 58 Louisiana Tech 81, Texas-Pan American 60 GAME PREVIEW: at Houston, Tuesday, Dec. 29 vs. Nevada, Saturday, Jan. 2 vs. Utah State, Monday, Jan. 4 at Idaho, Saturday, Jan. 9 at Boise State, Monday, Jan. 11

IN FOCUS: After playing mostly inferior opponents, Louisiana Tech gets serious, starting with the nonconference game at Houston. The Bulldogs will have to find a way to shut down Houston guard Aubrey Coleman, who is averaging 27.4 points per game. If they can't slow him down, perhaps Kyle Gibson can match him point for point in what could be a track meet. As conference play begins, the focus turns more to the big men with Tech's long, lean Magnum Rolle battling Nevada's Luke Babbitt (19.6 points, 9.8 rebounds).

ROSTER REPORT: --Senior C Magnum Rolle had six blocks against Texas-Pan American on Dec. 22 to tie a career high. He leads the WAC with 2.8 blocks per game.

--Freshman G Tevin Hall got into the Texas Pan-American game on Dec. 22 in the final minute and hit a 3-pointer for his first collegiate points. It was only his second appearance of the season.


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