Harris, Bracey help LA Tech pull out overtime win over SEMO
RUSTON – Jalen Harris and DaQuan Bracey may be sophomores, but they did not play like sophomores on Monday night.
Louisiana Tech was in a battle with Southeast Missouri for the entire game, a game that needed five more minutes to decide a winner. That winner ended up being the Bulldogs as the duo combined for 46 points to help pull out a 96-95 victory inside the Thomas Assembly Center.
Harris and Bracey combined to score 15 of the team’s 17 overtime points. The point guard Bracey opened up the extra stanza with five straight points. The shooting guard Harris ended it with eight points, the last six coming at the foul line to seal it.
“I’m proud of our resolve tonight,” head coach Eric Konkol said post-game. “There were a lot of moments with a lot of adversity throughout the game – foul trouble, not shooting the ball well, not defending well, changing different lineups and trying to find the right combination.
“I’m proud of the guys’ commitment to each other emotionally. They really lifted each other up as the game went on. You’ve got a lot of new faces and a lot of new players going through these moments for the first time, and I was happy for them that they were able to find a way.”
Neither team could pull away from one another during regulation. LA Tech (2-0) led by as much as five points late in the first period before SEMO (1-1) ended the half with five straight points to tie it up at 39-39 at intermission.
The three-pointers finally started to fall for the Bulldogs in the second half after only making one (out of seven) through the first 20 minutes.
Harris and junior Jy’lan Washington each hit one. Junior Derric Jean came off the bench to hit two triples. Then with 2:18 left in regulation, senior Jacobi Boykins drilled one from the corner to put the ‘Dogs up 77-73.
The Redhawks made back-to-back buckets to tie the game up again. After both teams traded two made free throws, Boykins had a chance at the buzzer to win it but his three-point attempt came up short.
In the first OT in the TAC since February of 2016, Bracey led the charge early to give LA Tech its largest lead of the game with a 7-0 run. First it was a made jumper, then a made free throw, then a drive to the lane, then an assist to Jean for a layup to force a SEMO timeout.
Southeast would not go away though. They clawed to within two with nine seconds remaining, but Harris calmly sank two at the foul line to give the Bulldogs a two-possession lead. It was critical because SEMO came down and hit a three-pointer as time expired.
It’s encouraging that we found a way,” Konkol said. “We didn’t defend the way that we needed to defend. Give SEMO a lot of credit. I thought they hurt us in a lot of ways. (Denzel) Mahoney was fantastic tonight. But, to not shoot the three very well and still score with the type of efficiency that we had – getting to the foul line and finding other ways that were maybe a bit atypical for us, that was important.”
After going for 25 in the season opener, Harris backed it up with a game-high and new career-high 26 point-performance (went 11-of-14 from the charity stripe). He also added a career high in rebounds (eight), assists (five) and steals (two).
Bracey finished one-point shy of tying his career high with 20 points. Jean was the third Bulldog in double figures with 14.
“They’re really rising to the occasion,” Konkol said of his sophomore tandem. “They did that last year as freshmen and they’re doing it as sophomores right now. These are big moments for them to grow too. These are plays and situations that they weren’t always in last year with the guys we had in the frontcourt and the other pieces.”
As a team, LA Tech shot 31-of-60 from the field (51.7 percent) and only 6-of-21 from three-point range (28.6 percent). They did a lot of much-needed damage from the free throw line though, going 28-of-34 for 82.4 percent.
SEMO was just as efficient on offense, shooting 48 percent (36-75) from the field and 36 percent (9-25) from deep. The Redhawks had five players in double figures, led by Denzel Mahoney who posted 25 points.
LA Tech will close out its three-game home stand to open the season on Saturday night at 7 p.m. when they take on Montana State.
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