It's pretty amazing to say, even for Louisiana Tech fans, but the Bulldogs might be on their way to an NCAA Tournament bid.
The Bulldogs improved their record to 17-2 Thursday night with a win against Fresno State, bringing them within three games of the magical 20-win mark and extending their Western Athletic Conference lead to 1 1/2 games. Louisiana Tech is 5-0, with Fresno State and New Mexico State tied for second at 3-1.
With games ahead against unimpressive foes -- at San Jose State and Hawaii, then home contests against New Mexico State and San Jose State -- it's conceivable the Bulldogs will have 20 wins by the end of the month.
If so, it's still no guarantee Tech will make the tournament. It's a pretty good sign, though.
LOUISIANA TECH 81, FRESNO STATE 73: Kyle Gibson scored 32 points to give Louisiana Tech its 10th consecutive victory Thursday night.
Louisiana Tech outscored Fresno State 33-26 in the first half and built on the lead afterward. Fresno State had won four straight games against the Bulldogs from the south.
Louisiana Tech built a 13-12 lead into a 23-14 edge. Fresno State's Sylvester Seay and Paul George combined for 37 points.
NOTES, QUOTES --Magnum Rolle scored a team-high 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds Monday to the lead the Bulldogs to a 79-64 victory at Boise State.
He was matched by the Broncos' Robert Arnold, who also scored 18. Boise State, made only 38.2 percent of its shots, though it trailed by just three at halftime.
With about 11 minutes left, the Broncos were down 52-48. However, the Bulldogs went on a 15-7 run in the next four minutes to pull away.
--Louisiana Tech keeps making believers. The Bulldogs, with a super senior core and boosted by the addition of junior college transfer point guard DeAndre Brown and the development of sophomore forward Olu Ashaolu, have raced out to a 16-2 record and a 4-0 league mark.
They passed a big road test with a 77-71 win at Idaho on Jan. 9, when they outscored the Vandals 29-15 in the final 10:25. "I thought we came out a little slow in the second half, and we knew it was going to take a full 40-minute effort," said coach Kerry Rupp. "It was a game where each possession was critical."
Speaking of 40 minutes, that's how long senior guard Kyle Gibson played against the Vandals. He scored 28 points to improve his season average to 21.4 points. Two fellow seniors -- athletic post Magnum Rolle (13.0 points per game) and guard Jamel Guyton (12.4) -- were the next-leading scorers for the Bulldogs.
But it's definitely Gibson who is steering the ship. The rest of the league has to take notice of him and the Bulldogs, who were pegged in the preseason as a middle-of-the-WAC team.
Gibson is a go-to scorer who is great in crunch time because he can handle the ball and get himself to the line, where he is making 88.3 percent (121 of 137).
"If he's not the best player in the league, he's one of them," Idaho coach Don Verlin said.
That's the same thing everyone is saying of Louisiana Tech as a team.
--Louisiana Tech entered the week ranked second in the WAC in scoring at 80.1 points per game. Although the Bulldogs aren't very deep, they like to run and press, and the starters all average at least 28 minutes. Kyle Gibson averages a league-most 35.8 minutes per game.
ON THE SPOT: It's hard to find too many problems right now for Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs have won 10 straight, their longest streak since 1986-87. As odd as it sounds, the main concern might be how the Bulldogs deal with problems.
They won by eight Thursday night, the same week they recorded a 15-point victory. In January, the team has won two games by six -- actually, by identical scores of 77-71 -- and another three by an average of 15 points per game. The question is: How will the Bulldogs handle the threat of defeat?
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We just try to take it one game at a time, and that's what we've always tried to do. We want to stay focused on each game and not look too far back in the rear-view mirror and not look too far forward but really focus on the game at hand." -- Coach Kerry Rupp.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL SEASON RECAP: Louisiana Tech has won every game it should have ... and then some. The Bulldogs' only losses were at New Mexico and Arizona, and at least those nonconference losses gave Tech a taste of the travel it will experience in the far-flung WAC. An eight-game winning streak entering the week included victories at Houston and Idaho, a home win over Nevada and an 82-60 deconstruction of Utah State at home.
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 77, Nevada 71 Louisiana Tech 82, Utah State 60 Louisiana Tech 77, Idaho 71 Louisiana Tech 79, Boise State 64 Louisiana Tech 81, Fresno State 73
GAME PREVIEW: vs. San Jose State, Thursday, Jan. 21 at Hawaii, Saturday, Jan. 23 vs. New Mexico State, Saturday, Jan. 30
ROSTER REPORT: --Senior G Jamel Guyton played the full 40 minutes Thursday, marking the most he's played since a 102-96 double-overtime victory Dec. 12 against Centenary, in which he played 47 minutes.
--Senior G Kyle Gibson turned in one of the greatest performances of his career, scoring a career-high 32 points on 7-of-12 3-point shooting against Fresno State. One of the best free-throw shooters in the nation, Gibson made all seven of his attempts.
--Senior C Magnum Rolle had 13 rebounds against Fresno State. Since Dec. 5, he has grabbed 109 rebounds in 11 games -- an average of 9.1 per game.