Friday, January 30, 2009

SJSU v. LA TECH Saturday afternoon

Does Louisiana Tech's loss to Hawaii bode well for the Spartans or will it rile up the Techsters even more in defending their home court? Your guess is as good as ours.

Here's the Hawaii-LAT game report from last night:

'Bows beat buzzer, Bulldogs
Balocka's putback as time expires propels UH past LaTech, 54-53
Honolulu Advertiser Staff and News Services
January 29, 2009

The University of Hawai'i men's basketball team is hoping a putback will put it back in the right direction.

Petras Balocka scored on a putback as the final horn sounded, ending weeks of frustration with a 54-53 road victory over Louisiana Tech yesterday at Ruston, La.

A crowd of 1,671 at the Thomas Assembly Center left in silence when the referees ruled that the basket was good after reviewing video of the final play.

"What can I say? I got lucky," Balocka said. "The ball bounced my way and I knew time was running out. There wasn't time to think about it, really. Just tip it."

The Rainbow Warriors ended a five-game losing streak to improve to 10-10 overall and 2-6 in the Western Athletic Conference. Both of Hawai'i's WAC victories came against LaTech, and both were by one point. The Bulldogs, who dropped to 8-13 and 2-6, are now tied with Hawai'i for seventh place in the nine-team WAC.

"From my vantage point, it looked good," said Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash, whose team won its first game on the road since it beat Idaho on Jan. 26 last year. "But you never know what they'll see when they look at the replay, so I'm just glad we got the win."

Roderick Flemings led Hawai'i with 17 points, including three 3-pointers. Bill Amis added 14 points and six rebounds, and Balocka contributed 10 points and five rebounds.

"We were all sick and tired of losing," Balocka said. "Hopefully, this is a new beginning for us."

Jamel Guyton hit a 3-pointer with 24 seconds remaining to give the Bulldogs a momentary 53-52 lead.

After calling a timeout, Nash designed a final play near the basket for Flemings. But he was covered, and the ball instead went to Amis, who took an off-balance turnaround jumper. It bounced off the rim to Balocka, who converted on the rebound.

"It wasn't the way we drew it up, but we always tell the guys 'crash the boards on every shot,' and Petras certainly did that," Nash said.

The victory came after an intense week of practice for the 'Bows.

After a 16-point loss at home to Utah State last Saturday, Nash closed practices to the media and public. He admitted "yelling and screaming" more than normal during those sessions.

"I was pleased with the way they approached this game and stayed with the game plan," Nash said. "We emphasized all week that this is a team, and everybody has to be on the same page for this to work. For the most part, we stayed with the system and game plan."

Even after LaTech raced to a 13-2 lead to start the game, Nash said the 'Bows never panicked.

"They came out and hit their first four shots, three of them were 3s, but I didn't think that would last forever," Nash said. "I said let's keep working and we'll get back in this thing."

The 'Bows trailed by as many as 12 in the first half, but cut the LaTech lead to 35-30 at intermission.

Hawai'i opened the second half with an 11-1 run to take a 41-36 lead. The 'Bows increased their lead to 49-42 with 5:52 remaining, but the Bulldogs fought back to make it exciting at the end.

Hawai'i went just 4 of 7 on free throws, but shot 46.9 percent from the field — its best percentage since the last victory over LaTech on Jan. 5.

Nash said during the week that not every player on the team was "buying in" during the intense practices, and so there could be changes to the rotation.

Sure enough, only seven 'Bows saw action yesterday. Amis and Kareem Nitoto each played the full 40 minutes, and Flemings played 39.

Guyton led the Bulldogs with 14 points, including four 3-pointers.

For LA TECH, a shifting of positions and duties has taken place. The recent suspension of 6-10, 260 Kenneth Cooper for the remainder of the season (and more than likely from Ruston forever) moves Magnum Rolle into the middle. Cooper hurt San Jose State in the earlier game with 17 points, six rebounds and the cuasing of five fouls on Chris Oakes. Rolle is quite the different player at 6-11, 225, more an extremely athletic flyswatter of shots who is better at shotblocking as a help defender than as a straight-on defender. Rolle did go for 23 points (11-11 from the floor) and 12 rebounds, plus three shotblocks against Boise State in the last Bulldog contest.

In the previous game at Walt McPherson Court between San Jose State and Louisiana Tech, here's our writeup:

Spartans fall 66-61 to Louisiana Tech

San Jose State jumped out to a very early lead but Louisiana Tech countered and the sense set in that the game would be a grinder from then on out. That it became as the Bulldogs crept into the lead and held it at intermission.

With 13:05 remaining in the second half, San Jose State tied it up at 41 apiece. The Spartans inched away to a 48-44 lead at the 10:51 mark.

Then a cold stretch by SJSU, coupled with a Kyle Gibson three, put Tech back in the lead at 52-51 with 6:32 on the clock.

A Justin Graham three-pointer from the top of the circle made it 59-56 in favor of the Ruston-ites with 3:56 remaining. The Techsters missed a shot on the next possession but so did SJSU. After another Bulldog turnover, Tim Pierce hit a trey from the right side to tie the game at 59 with 2:47 remaining.

Tech committed another turnover but Pierce missed on a dribble-drive and the Bulldogs rebounded.

Jamel Guyton was fouled and nailed both free throws, giving Louisiana Tech a two point margin, 61-59. Adrian Oliver countered with an 18-foot jumper to tie it back up.

Then the crucial possessions occurred.

Kenneth Cooper scored on a crossunder layup and Magnum Rolle subsequently blocked Graham's dribble-drive shot in the key.

Tech took a timeout with 44.3 seconds on the clock and possession of the ball.

The Bulldogs' Gibson missed a shot attempt but Cooper rebounded. He was then tied up but the possession arrow favored Tech -- 24.3 seconds remained.

After a timeout, Cooper was intentionally fouled and made one of two free throws with 22.7 seconds left.

At the 13 second mark, Pierce missed a three-point attempt -- back rim -- and James Loe was fouled. He nailed both free throws and that was the game.

Tech's Cooper went to the bench early in the initial half after two too easy C.J. Webster buckets. But the Bulldog center became a force in the remainder of the contest, moving bodies and creating space so much so that Webster and Spartan center Chris Oakes were both saddled with two fouls at the half. Call Cooper the most valuable Bulldog of the night as LAT smartly and proficiently ran offensive sets that often isolated Cooper against a either a smaller or less weighty Spartan.

Adrian Oliver again led San Jose State, this time with 18 points. On a night where his shooting appeared off, he still shot 7-14. Webster added 17 and six boards. Cooper also finished with 17 and Guyton was definitely 'on' tonight with 14 points on with 4-8 shooting overall and an 'en fuego' 4-5 from long distance. Although Gibson entered the game with many 40 assists to 48 turnovers, he enjoyed three assists and zero miscues with the ball on the evening. Guyton also had five assists with but one turnover even though he entered the game with a 33/34 assist to turnover ratio.

As teams, San Jose State shot just below 42% for the game, a paltry 4-17 on three-pointers and earned just 12 free throws, all by Webster and Oliver. But 19 Spartan assists were a bright spot. The Techsters were just above 42% for the game but 7-11 on trey attempts and 21-29 at the charity stripe. Rebounding ended up in SJSU's favor 34-31, with 13 coming at the offensive end.

The LT Season To Date

Look at the scores and it's front and center that the Techsters aren't winning or losing by much. The Fresno State was an anomaly with a 6-32 second half team shooting the downfall for LT.

1/03/09 @ San Jose State W, 66-61
1/05/09 @ Hawaii L, 65-64
1/08/09 Utah State L, 50-37
1/10/09 Nevada L, 67-64
1/17/09 Idaho W, 74-63
1/22/09 @ Fresno State L, 63-46
1/24/09 @ Boise State L, 58-53
1/29-09 Hawaii L, 53-54

The Bulldog starting five

Magnum Rolle F 6-11 225 11.5 ppg., 6.8 rpg.
Adrian Rogers F 6-6 235 0.9 ppg., 1.3 rpg.
Kyle Gibson G 6-5 205 14.5 ppg., 4.0 rpg., 2.8 apg.
Jamel Guyton G 6-3 180 12.1 ppg., 3.3 rpg.
James Loe G 5-10 170 4.1 ppg., 1.7 rpg.

-- He is a Louisiana native who transferred from LSU. Call him the best athlete in the WAC, a near seven-footer who can run and jump with the best. He can produce numbers -- it's a matter of doing so every time out for him as hee has the potential to be a dominant player and the predcition is he will be an NBA draftee.

Rogers -- He is one of the few holdovers from last season and more a stopgap at this point. But it's great he is getting more minutes now in his final season.

Gibson -- Forced to play at the point some time in games, Gibson is the best Bulldog player and most proficient as an off guard or wing. He typically needs to reach 20 or so points a game for the Bulldgos to have a chance to win.

Guyton -- Basketball doesn't have official designated shooters but Guyton would qualify if such is ever instituted. He's a transfer from a Florida junior college. Guyton played well against SJSU in the previous match.

James Loe -- The key is to maintain defensive pressure on him and force errors but he's pretty much stabilized his play since league play began and allowed Gibson to have much less ballhandling responsibility, a major plus.

David Jackson -- He's an intra-conference transfer who played as a freshman at Idaho but left and attended an Arizona junior college last season. He's playing close to 28 minutes a game and chipping in with contributions across the board for LT.

Olu Ashaolu -- A lot was expected immediately of Ashaolu but he has taken longer than some expected in his adjustment to D-1. He's a physical specimen at a very athletic 6-7, 230.

The Louisiana Tech men's roster
(by position & alphabetical)

Olu Ashaolu 6-7 230 G redshirt freshman
Yonas Berhe 6-0 170 G freshman
Brandon Gibson 6-5 230 G freshman
Kyle Gibson 6-5 205 G junior
Jamel Guyton 6-3 180 G junior
James Loe 5-11 190 G senior
Anson Bartlett 6-3 175 G freshman

David Jackson 6-8 195 F junior
Adrian Rogers 6-6 235 F senior
Magnum Rolle 6-11 225 C/F junior

Shawn Oliverson 6-10 250 C/F sophomore

Tech has enjoyed a bit of a Canadian pipeline with two players from up north on the roster and a third stashed away at Salt Lake City College. Two Bulldog high school signees from last year had academic problems and were placed in the junior college ranks. Kerry Rupp also has a transfer from the Ivy League (Cornell) in Shawn Oliverson.

What Else

Tech's team scoring has dropped into the 50s per game since Cooper's departure. San Jose State will be going from facing a high-scoring team in New Mexico State to one more based on deliberate play. Defensive patience may be a key.

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