WICHITA, Kansas – The team motto that Louisiana Tech used in the offseason and wanted to carry over into the 2018-19 season was “Tougher, Together.”
That motto was in full effect in the season opener on Tuesday night as the Bulldogs came into Charles Koch Arena and shocked Wichita State, winning 71-58, in front of a jam-packed 10,267 fans.
LA Tech (1-0) managed to do something very few teams have done and that is win in Wichita, Kansas. Wichita State (0-1) had won 72 of its last 75 games at home, had won 15 straight season openers at home and had won 22 consecutive home openers.
Helping snap those streaks was the rebounding of the Bulldogs, winning the glass 37-26. Then there were the plays that don’t show up on the stat sheets like the loose balls, the dives on the floor and the charges taken that helped hand the Shockers their worst non-conference home loss in over 10 years.
“I want to give a lot of credit to coach Marshall and the Wichita State team,” head coach Eric Konkol said. “We knew we were going to play a very hard-playing team and we certainly got that tonight. We fought a lot of adversity to come away with this win. I thought our guys executed in the times when we needed it.
“This is a huge win for us. It is something that we have talked about all summer long. We knew we were going to start the season off and get a really good idea of where we are at this moment. There is no doubt, coming away with a win here is big.”
It was not a good start for the Bulldogs though. Through the first 10 minutes of the game, they were shooting just 4-of-13 from the field and no outside shots made. As a result, they found themselves down 15-11.
However, the game seemed to turn after sophomore Exavian Christon drilled a three-pointer from the wing in transition which sparked an 11-0 run and forced a timeout by Wichita State.
The lead ballooned to as much as 35-21 with three minutes to go in the first stanza when sophomore Amorie Archibald found Christon on a backdoor that was slammed home. LA Tech would ultimately take a 10-point lead (39-29) into halftime, thanks to shooting 10-of-15 from the field for the final 10 minutes of the period with 10 first-half points coming from junior DaQuan Bracey.
The Shockers were able to find some offensive rhythm in the early going of the second half and that was thanks to freshman Erik Stevenson who came off the bench and knocked down back-to-back triples to help pull them to within four at 47-43 with 12:33 to go.
The Bulldogs responded, Oliver Powell specifically, who grabbed an offensive rebound and registered the and-one for the strong putback. The junior forward was also responsible for a couple of big defensive boards that followed, helping the ‘Dogs go up 55-43 on another three-pointer by Christon.
WSU would not go away. A made bucket by Samajae Haynes-Jones forced a timeout by LA Tech, holding on with a 59-52 advantage with five minutes left to go.
Bracey, who finished with a game-high 16 points, went down hard soon thereafter and was forced to leave the game. Stepping up in his place in scoring was Archibald who made six straight free throws down the stretch and the exclamation point was delivered by junior Mubarak Muhammed who had a one-handed dunk with six seconds remaining.
Archibald finished with 14 points and a career-high/game-high nine rebounds. Christon and Muhammed also ended the night in double figures with 14 and 10 points, respectively.
LA Tech ended up shooting 22-of-50 from the field (44 percent) and 4-of-16 from the three-point line (25 percent). They also finished with 23 made free throws to just the 11 made (out of 26) by the Shockers.
WSU was 20-of-54 from the field for 37 percent and 7-of-25 from deep for 28 percent. Stevenson led the way with 16 points.
Next up for LA Tech is its home opener on Sunday, Nov. 11 against Sam Houston State. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. inside the Thomas Assembly Center on Karl Malone Court.