Louisiana Tech Hits the Road

It's getting harder and harder to ignore Louisiana Tech, which has become the team to beat in the WAC.

"I do think we're one of the best-kept secrets," senior guard Kyle Gibson told the Shreveport Times. "We don't get much publicity at all, but that's OK. Everyone on the team knows what we can do to prove a point."

Yes, it is hard for most teams in the WAC to get publicity, especially at Louisiana Tech, where the men's team is often overshadowed by the women's basketball team. And the Bulldogs have kind of come from nowhere this season, which makes them a good story, but it can also make people slow to be believers.

But this is fact: Louisiana Tech (17-2 overall) enters the week on a 10-game winning streak and is in first place in the WAC with a 5-0 record.

The Bulldogs, receiving votes in the AP poll, might be playing well enough to earn an at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament if they don't win the WAC tournament. Their 10-game winning streak started after a loss at Arizona in which Louisiana Tech looked like the superior athletic team for about half of the first half until it slowly ran out of steam.

"We try to treat every game like a big game in the way that we prepare," coach Kerry Rupp told the Shreveport Times. "We have tremendous respect for our opponent and for the WAC. Our guys have some confidence and have done a good job of not only respecting our opponent but paying attention to the game plan. We not only have the will to win, but the will to prepare to win."

NOTES, QUOTES --The 10-game winning streak was the best for Louisiana Tech since the 1984-85 season. So, too, was the 17-2 overall record. This marked the first time the Bulldogs began 5-0 in the WAC.

--The home fans seem to be catching on. A season-high crowd of 4,146 attended the home game against Fresno State on Jan. 14. "It's what makes it all worthwhile," coach Kerry Rupp said. "As a college team it makes it a really cool experience when you've got fans that get excited and get behind you."

ON THE SPOT: Louisiana Tech will continue to be successful if it put in the work during offseason conditioning. The Bulldogs use their starters more than all but a handful of teams in the country, as the usual starting five entered the week accounting for nearly 77 percent of the minutes played. How will their legs hold up later in the season? Will they be fresh for the WAC tournament. Can someone other than F David Jackson provide good minutes off the bench?

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Everyone gets along well on and off the court, which is a big reason why we're winning. Right now we're on a pretty good winning streak." -- Guard Kyle Gibson, in the Shreveport Times.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL SEASON RECAP: The Bulldogs had only two (forgivable) losses entering the week -- at New Mexico and at Arizona. Louisiana Tech has become a force because it has experience (three senior starters), emerging sophomore star Olu Ashaolu and a junior college point guard (DeAndre Brown), who has been the steady influence that the team previously lacked. Everyone in the starting five averages at least 11 points per game, and as they as they hold up, Tech's athleticism and inside-outside balance make the Bulldogs the team to beat in the WAC.

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 71, 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 vs. San Jose State, Thursday, Feb. 4 at New Mexico State, Monday, Feb. 8

IN FOCUS: Let's see if the front-running Bulldogs have the maturity to take care of business and not play down to the level of their opponents. Hawaii figures to compete with Boise State to stay out of the league cellar, and the Warriors' home-court advantage is not as fierce as it used to be. Tech should win and should be motivated after suffering a pair of one-point losses to Hawaii last season. Tech star G Kyle Gibson managed only a combined 21 points in the two defeats.

ROSTER REPORT: --F Olu Ashaolu enters the week ranked third in the conference in rebounding at 9.1 per game.

--G Kyle Gibson is coming off a 32-point game against Fresno State on Jan. 14, when he made 7 of 12 3-point shots. He enters the week as the WAC leader in scoring (21.7) and minutes played (35.7).

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