"(Gibson) hadn't played a lot of minutes when I first got here," said third-year coach Kerry Rupp.
"First he was playing the four as they were very small and last year he played some point guard, which helped his ball handling. What he has done is develop into an all-around player who can score in a variety of ways. His leadership has grown to where young guys can see how he comes in early and stays late."
Gibson averages 21.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists, and he is shooting 37.7 percent from behind the 3-point arc. Gibson and a pair of fellow seniors -- LSU transfer C Magnum Rolle and junior college transfer G Jamel Guyton -- have helped make Louisiana Tech the surprise team in the WAC, although a 91-77 home loss to New Mexico State on Jan. 30 cost the Bulldogs sole possession of first place.
Tech enters the week at 18-4 overall and 6-2 in the WAC, tied with NMSU and Utah State.
Last season, the Bulldogs were 6-10 in conference play.
"This is a very good league top to bottom and you have to be ready to play every time you step on the court," Rupp said.
NOTES, QUOTES --Louisiana Tech had been 8-0 at home this season, as 12-0 dating to last season, before losing to New Mexico State 91-77 on Jan. 30. The Bulldogs allowed NMSU to shoot 53.6 percent while they struggled with their outside touch, hitting just 5 of 27 3-point shots (18.5 percent).
--Tech's five starters are each averaging double-figure points as they combine to score 89 percent of the team's points. Four of the starters average more than 30 minutes, and the fifth -- F Olu Ashaolu -- puts in 28 minutes per game.
ON THE SPOT: Before the home loss to New Mexico State, the Bulldogs were in the unusual position of being alone in first place in the WAC. While they might have been able to sneak up on some teams earlier in the season, they are clearly now wearing a target ... and the players have to respond appropriately. That didn't happen in the loss to the Aggies. "We were in first place and when a team comes in, they are going to fight to knock us out," said Tech coach Kerry Rupp. "We didn't play with the hunger and the fire that we had recently. We've just got to get back to work."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He is one guy that I inherited who has been through the ups and downs but he has bought in and helped build from the bottom up. Not only with on-the-court stuff, but also with the off-season conditioning and the academic side." -- Coach Kerry Rupp, on senior guard Kyle Gibson.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: It's been a great season so far for Tech, which received votes in the AP poll for the first time since 1985. The team raced to a 17-2 record, with the only losses at New Mexico and Arizona, before losing two of three conference games heading into this week. The Bulldogs have been able to surge behind the senior trio of Kyle Gibson, Magnum Rolle and Jamel Guyton, while getting athleticism and rebounding from sophomore PF Olu Ashaolu and a steadying influence from junior college transfer PG DeAndre Brown.
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: San Jose State 87, Louisiana Tech 76 Louisiana Tech 65, Hawaii 60 New Mexico State 91, Louisiana Tech 77
GAME PREVIEW: vs. San Jose State, Thursday, Feb. 4 at New Mexico State, Monday, Feb. 8 vs. Hawaii, Saturday, Feb. 13 at Utah State, Wednesday, Feb. 17 vs. TBA, ESPN BracketBusters, Saturday, Feb. 20
IN FOCUS: Louisiana Tech has a couple of payback games up next, as it lost at San Jose State on Jan. 21 and fell at home to New Mexico State on Jan. 30. The game against the Aggies will be key in the league race. The Bulldogs often have an athleticism advantage in WAC play this season, but that isn't the case against NMSU, and they will have to shoot better from the outside (5 of 27 in the first meeting) to have a chance in Las Cruces.
ROSTER REPORT: --G Kyle Gibson scored 23 points against New Mexico State on Jan. 30, upping his career total to 1,582 and moving him into 10th on the Tech career list.
--C Magnum Rolle had 27 points (two off his career high) and 15 rebounds against New Mexico State on Jan. 30. He has 32 rebounds in his past two games.
--Senior G Jamel Guyton recorded his first career double-double at Hawaii on Jan. 23, pulling down a career-best 10 rebounds to go with 14 points. He came back with just 3 points on 1-of-10 shooting vs. New Mexico State.