Louisiana Tech (17-15) vs. Nevada (26-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, March 9, 11:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Orleans Arena (7,471) -- Las Vegas, Nevada. Television: WAC Sports Network. Home Record: LaTech 11-4, Nevada 15-2. Away Record: LaTech 4-10, Nevada 9-2. Neutral Record: LaTech 2-1, Nevada 2-1. Conference Record: LaTech 6-8, Nevada 13-1. Series Record: Nevada leads, 19-5.
GAME NOTES: Facing off against each other for the second time in less than a week, the Nevada Wolf Pack and the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs get together at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas tonight for semifinals action in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament.
Last Saturday, the teams met up at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno where the host Wolf Pack delivered a 79-69 victory in order to take a 19-5 advantage in the all-time series.
More important than that last clash, this time around the winner heads to the finals of the 29th annual WAC Tournament to do battle with the survivor of the Hawaii/New Mexico State meeting for the right to represent the league in the NCAA Tournament.
The fifth seed in this year's event, Louisiana Tech scored a minor upset last night with a narrow 72-70 win over fourth-seeded Utah State, an opponent which had appeared in the last three title games. LaTech, now 5-9 in the event over the years, is still waiting for their first appearance in the championship round.
As for the top-seeded Wolf Pack, they've been the team to beat in the WAC all season long, at one point putting together a 16-game win streak. Nevada, which last appeared in the final game of the tourney in 2009 and last took the title in 2006, dismissed a pesky San Jose State squad last night by a score of 54-44.
Ahead by 10 points with under four minutes to play, the Bulldogs were nearly ushered out of the tournament last night by a Utah State program that refused to go away quietly. Nevertheless, LaTech managed to hold on for the two-point win thanks in part to Trevor Gaskins who made a couple of crucial free throws down the stretch. Gaskins finished with 16 points, as did Romario Souza, while Raheem Appleby and Brandon Gibson both tacked on 13 points, the latter matching Souza on the glass with seven rebounds to pace the program as well. The team shot an impressive 52.9 percent from the floor and 8-of-17 behind the three-point line. For the season the Bulldogs have converted just 33.2 percent on the perimeter, yet that's still better than the competition at only 32.3 percent. Appleby has come on to take control of the offense with his 13.8 ppg, followed by Gaskins (11.2 ppg) and Cordarius Johnson (10.0 ppg).
It was one of their lowest scoring outings of the season last night, but the Wolf Pack did just enough to get them into the win column against San Jose State. The squad shot 40.0 percent from the floor and a mere 4-of-16 behind the three-point line, their turnover total (15) nearly matching their made field goals (18). Deonte Burton accounted for a team-best 16 points, connecting on 8-of-10 at the free-throw line after making just 3-of-11 shots from the floor. Olek Czyz and Jerry Evans both added 10 points in an effort to make up for Malik Story who missed all six of his three-point tries and was a mere 4-of-15 from the floor. Perhaps most disturbing for the Pack was that the bench supplied just one made field goal and three points total. Burton, the leading scorer in each of the last two games for the Pack, paces the group overall with 15.2 ppg and is also first with 132 assists, while Story (14.0 ppg) and Czyz (13.5 ppg) have also been crucial pieces to the puzzle.
As long as Story doesn't throw in another sour performance and the rest of the top performers for the Wolf Pack are on top of their respective games, expect to see Nevada advancing.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 69, Louisiana Tech 61
03/09 10:43:03 ET