Louisiana Tech (27-6) at Southern Miss (26-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Monday, March 25, 10:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Reed Green Coliseum (8,095) -- Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Television: ESPNU. NIT Record: Louisiana Tech 8-6, Southern Miss 7-7. Series Record: Southern Miss leads, 41-29.
GAME NOTES: With a new contract extension all but signed, Louisiana Tech head coach Michael White leads his Bulldogs into the second round of the 2013 NIT on Monday night against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles at Reed Green Coliseum.
White, the Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in just his second season at the helm, drove the Bulldogs to the league's regular season title, not to mention their first appearance in the Top-25 in almost 30 years. At one point Louisiana Tech owned the longest winning streak in the nation at 18 games, but the team then lost back-to-back decisions against New Mexico State and Denver to close out the regular season.
Seeded fifth in this tourney, the Bulldogs also bowed out of the WAC Tournament early with a 73-67 setback versus Texas-San Antonio, but the team then turned around and delivered a 71-66 win over Florida State in the first round of the NIT. With that victory, LaTech moved to 8-6 in the event all- time.
As for the top-seeded Golden Eagles, they too were strong during their Conference USA slate, winning 12 of their 16 contests, but like the Bulldogs USM also failed to bring home the conference tournament title when it suffered a 91-79 double-overtime defeat versus Memphis in the title game on March 16.
Relegated to the NIT, where they now have an even record of 7-7, the Golden Eagles seized the opportunity and delivered a 78-71 win against Charleston Southern last week in the first round.
In terms of the all-time series between these programs, located only about 250 miles away from each other, this is actually listed as the oldest rivalry outside the state of Louisiana for the Bulldogs with this being the 71st matchup all-time. USM may own a 41-29 advantage over LaTech, but it was the Bulldogs who posted a 65-55 home win in the meeting between the squads back in early December in Ruston.
During what would become the 30th straight home win for the Bulldogs against non-conference foes, Kenyon McNeail was the lone double-digit scorer for the hosts with 18 points in 18 minutes off the bench as the Bulldogs survived with a mere 39.6 percent shooting from the floor Michael Craig led the visitors with 21 points and nine rebounds, but USM hurt itself with 23 turnovers.
The winner of this contest is scheduled to be back in action in just a couple of days versus the survivor of the Mercer/BYU meeting.
After shooting just 25.8 percent from the floor in the first half against Florida State, the Bulldogs erupted for 65.5 percent accuracy after the break to claim the upset win in the first round of the NIT. Raheem Appleby scored a game-high 27 points on 12-of-19 shooting from the floor, followed by Alex Hamilton with 16 points as the team survived a mere 3-of-15 showing behind the 3-point line.
Through 33 games, Appleby remains the lone double-digit scorer for the Bulldogs with his 14.8 ppg, with the rest of the roster stepping up at various times to help shoulder the load and help push the team to a 10.0 ppg scoring advantage. What makes this team so tough is their defense, one that is averaging about nine steals per outing and more than 17 forced turnovers per contest.
It was a tight game against Charleston Southern, forcing the Golden Eagles to shoot 56.0 percent from the floor and 10-of-19 behind the 3-point line just to gain enough separation during the close call. All five starters scored in double figures for Southern Miss, beginning with Jonathan Mills who came up a rebound shy of a double-double as he tallied 16 points. Dwayne Davis responded with 15 points, six boards and five assists, followed by Jerrold Brooks with 14 points and both Daveon Boardingham and Neil Watson 10 points.
In the last four games the Golden Eagles have had a different leading scorer each time out, but overall this season the leader is Davis with his 16.4 ppg, getting the job done with an impressive 43.7 percent accuracy behind the 3- point line, although at the same time he also limited his productivity by fouling out of seven games. Brooks (10.7 ppg) was one of four other players scoring at least nine points per game for a squad that's been outscoring the competition by more than 11 per outing.
Both of these teams operate on the same concepts, a balanced scoring attack and an aggressive defense that can limit opportunities for the competition. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, USM demonstrated in the first game of this tourney that it can spread out the responsibilities in order to get everyone involved in the action.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Southern Miss 72, Louisiana Tech 66
03/25 10:46:00 ET