WAC Teams Playing for Bids

The weakness of some of the nation's major conferences -- namely, the WAC's Western neighbors, the Pac-10 -- figures to open the door for more at-large teams to make the NCAA Tournament.

But will the WAC be involved?

After Louisiana Tech lost to conference leader Utah State on Wednesday night, the Bulldogs had better hope so.

A victory would have moved the Bulldogs (20-6, 8-4 WAC) almost even with the Aggies (21-6, 11-2).

It didn't happen, however, and now the Bulldogs have fallen into third place behind New Mexico State. Louisiana Tech's hopes of catching Utah State have all but disappeared.

The easiest path to the postseason seems to be a conference tournament championship.

That now seems to be the only sure way to get there.

Next up for the Bulldogs is BracketBusters game at Northeastern. The Huskies (18-9, 13-3 Colonial) are tied for first place in their league.

UTAH STATE 67, LOUISIANA TECH 61: Forward Taj Wesley scored a game-high 16 points to lead the Aggies past Louisiana Tech, allowing Utah State to hold on to first place.

He and swingman Pooh Williams each made seven of 13 field-goal attempts on Wednesday. Three Louisiana Tech players scored 14 or more points. DeAndre Brown and Magnum Rolle had seven rebounds apiece.

Brown made a 3-pointer to cut the lead to two points with 17 seconds left, but Tyler Newbold made two free throws. A Brown miss led to two Jared Quayle freebies, sealing the victory.

NOTES, QUOTES --One recent problem for the Bulldogs has been 3-point shooting. Through Feb. 13, Louisiana Tech had suffered through five consecutive cold shooting nights, going a combined 21 of 86 (24.4 percent) from behind the arc.

That poor accuracy was a factor in a home game against short-handed Hawaii that was much closer (66-60) than it should have been. The Warriors had a couple of possessions in the final two minutes when they could have tied the game or taken the lead.

"We're not shooting the ball well, and we're not getting to the free throw line," coach Kerry Rupp said. "We've got to definitely get to the offensive boards."

--Louisiana Tech made only 15 of 29 free-throw attempts against Hawaii on Feb. 13, which contributed to the closer-than-expected victory. The Bulldogs were at 66.1 percent for the season, fifth in the WAC through games of Feb. 13. "We missed a lot of free throws, which had been a plus for us earlier this season," coach Kerry Rupp said after the Hawaii game. "We've got to do a much better job at the free-throw line."

--Louisiana Tech entered the week second in the league in rebounding margin at plus-3.3 per game in conference games.

ON THE SPOT: After the Feb. 13 win against Hawaii, it was hard to imagine a situation in which Louisiana Tech could shoot so badly again.

On Wednesday, it did.

In a 66-60 win against the Warriors, the Bulldogs tied their season low for points scored, and their 39.7 shooting percentage was the lowest in any victory this season. They shot even worse against Utah State, 37.5 percent.

Simple as it sounds, Tech won't go anywhere unless it can improve its shooting, and fast.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It became really, really close, where we really had to come down and have great possessions. It was about fighting, and finding a way to stay strong, and finding a way to come out with the win." -- Tech coach Kerry Rupp, on a 66-60 victory over Hawaii on Feb. 13.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL SEASON RECAP: A veteran and stable lineup has led Louisiana Tech to be one of the surprise teams in the WAC. With 20 wins entering the week and having previously received votes in the AP poll, this already has been a notable season for the Bulldogs, but there is still much work to be done. Tech leans heavily on its athletic starting five, so you have to wonder if those guys will wear down late in the season.

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, San Jose State 64 New Mexico State 70, Louisiana Tech 68 Louisiana Tech 66, Hawaii 60 Utah State 67, Louisiana Tech 61

GAME PREVIEW: at Northeastern, Saturday, Feb. 20 vs. Boise State, Thursday, Feb. 25 vs. Idaho, Saturday, Feb. 27 at Fresno State, Thursday, March 4

IN FOCUS: Louisiana Tech knows what it is getting into when it plays Northeastern in a televised BracketBusters game. The Huskies beat Utah State at Matthews Arena in Boston, 64-61, in November. Louisiana Tech will have to establish its rebounding superiority in this game, especially if it continues to struggle with its 3-point shooting.

ROSTER REPORT: --The last time junior G DeAndre Brown faced Utah State, he dished out nine assists, a season high and the most by a Louisiana Tech player since 2005. On Wednesday night, he had four assists in 35 minutes.

--Senior G Jamel Guyton had two steals against the Aggies, giving him at least on in 12 consecutive games.

--Senior G Kyle Gibson made five of six free throws Wednesday to improve his total to 178 successful foul shots on the season, second most in the nation.


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