Home » Men’s college basketball: Bulldogs down Blue Raiders in regular-season finale

Men’s college basketball: Bulldogs down Blue Raiders in regular-season finale

by Russell Hedges

By Kane McGuire, Louisiana Tech Associate Athletic Director/Strategic Communications

RUSTON – Louisiana Tech’s top three scorers – Isaiah CrawfordDaniel Batcho, and Tahlik Chavez – each tallied 19 points as the Bulldogs closed out the regular season with an 84-70 victory over Middle Tennessee on Saturday afternoon inside the Thomas Assembly Center on Karl Malone Court.

LA Tech (22-9, 12-4 CUSA) picked itself off from a disappoint loss on Thursday and got back to its identity … defense and rebounding. The defense held Middle Tennessee (13-18, 7-9 CUSA) to just 37.7 percent shooting. The Bulldogs controlled the paint where they outscored the Blue Raiders, 44-16, and outrebounded them, 42-31. 

Playing in their final game in the TAC this season, the Bulldogs jumped out to a 7-0 lead and never trailed. That was almost not the case though as the Blue Raiders took advantage of foul trouble on Crawford and Batcho, going on a 7-0 run of their own to shrink their deficit down to 23-21. 

Chavez helped LA Tech hang on to the lead though, scoring the team’s last 10 points (tallied 17 of his 19 in the first stanza) to make it a 40-37 edge going into halftime.

After missing nearly half of the first 20 minutes, Crawford returned and had an immediate impact with a three-pointer, a dunk, and an assist to Batcho to quickly get the advantage back to double-digits at 47-37, forcing a timeout by the visitors.

Middle Tennessee stayed within striking distance, mainly because of its execution at the foul line where they made 23 of their 29 free throw attempts. Down 63-57 with 8:54 to go, Dravon Mangum sparked a 9-0 run by the ‘Dogs to make it their largest lead of the contest at 72-57 with 5:24 remaining.

Mangum, who missed Thursday’ game, returned to action and was the fourth Bulldog in double figures with 10 points to go along with eight boards. Crawford was the leading rebounder for LA Tech, securing 13 boards for his fourth double-double of the season. 

The Blue Raiders also had four players with double-digit points, led by Elias King who had 19. 

QUOTABLES
Head coach Talvin Hester

On the win …
“Our gameplan was the same, do what got us here. I do not think we did that this last game. Our top three scorers all had 19 points.  Sean Newman Jr. led us in assists. We defended in the second half. We outrebounded them like we normally do. That is who we are. It came down to us being us. The hardest thing was to do it with the feeling left from Thursday. We had a job to do and that was finish the regular season the right way.”

On the challenge of rebounding from Thursday’s loss …
“It was really hard. I realized how hard it was when I got to work the next day, the locker room was full of players but completely silent. That is when I really knew I get to get out of my feelings and be there for my team. Give some life into them. In life, you are going to get knocked down. You better get back up the next day and start fighting again. The last two times we got punched in the mouth with some losses we went on winning streaks and I hope we can do that now.”

On Crawford and Batcho controlling the paint …
“We were in control for the most part in the first half until both of those guys got in foul trouble. I made a concerted effort to keep them on the floor in the second half, even when they picked up more fouls. We only get so many possessions. They got to stay in the game and finish the game off.”

On Dravon Mangum …
“Every piece we have is vital because we have so many people that can step up. I would have loved to have had him Thursday, but we did not. He came back today with the right attitude. I think he played like he had new life.”

Forward Dravon Mangum

On the meaning of playing his last game in the TAC …
“It meant everything. To be able to play my last home game with a great group of teammates, being around this coaching staff, it meant everything.”

On embracing the last home game …
“Just having a chip on our shoulder. Everything matters in a game and we were just prepared in order to come out with a win.”

On his performance …
“I was just being poised. I give all the credit to my teammates for trusting me to make plays.”

NOTABLES

  • With the win, LA Tech now leads the all-time series versus Middle Tennessee, 15-7. The Bulldogs sweep the regular season series against the Blue Raiders while also improving to 10-2 against them in Ruston.
  • LA Tech won its 14th home game of the season, finishing off with a 14-2 home record. It marks the ninth time in the last 12 seasons that the Bulldogs have registered at least 14 home victories.
  • The Bulldogs finished with a 12-4 conference record, marking the eighth time in 11 seasons in CUSA of having 12+ league wins.
  • LA Tech won its 80th CUSA game at home. They are now 80-18 all-time in CUSA games played at the TAC.
  • The Bulldogs held the Blue Raiders to 37.7 percent shooting, marking the 19th time this season holding their opponent to under 40 percent.
  • LA Tech outrebounded Middle Tennessee, 42-31, marking the 23rd time this season having more rebounds than their opponent. It was also the 13th time this season with 40+ boards in a single game.
  • Isaiah CrawfordTahlik Chavez, and Daniel Batcho each had 19 points. In doing so, all three now have 400+ points this season, marking just the second time since 2015 that LA Tech has had three players registered 400+ points.
  • Isaiah Crawford registered his fourth double-double of the season with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
  • Dravon Mangum nearly had a double-double with 10 points and eight rebounds. It marked his fifth game with double-digit points this season.
  • Tahlik Chavez made two three-pointers, giving him 78 on the season which is the sixth most in program history.
  • Sean Newman Jr. dished out a game-high six assists, marking the 18th time this season with at least five dimes in a single game.
  • Isaiah Crawford registered two steals, giving him 66 on the season which ranks fourth most in program history.
  • Isaiah Crawford now ranks 18th all-time in career scoring (1,492), 20th in career rebounding (599), and tied for fourth in career steals (185).

UP NEXT
LA Tech will head to Huntsville, Alabama for the 2024 Conference USA Men’s Basketball Championship. The Bulldogs and Blue Raiders will meet again, this time in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, March 13 at 8 p.m. CT in Propst Arena. The matchup will be broadcast on ESPN+.

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