LA Tech takes 77-76 OT win over FIU
With the turnovers mounting, LA Tech (14-16, 7-12 C-USA) found itself down 16 early in the second half. But, the Bulldogs got scrappy and started taking care of the basketball, ultimately pulling it out in what was their fifth OT game of the season.
The ‘Dogs coughed the ball up 13 times in the first half, which FIU (13-17, 7-12 C-USA) gladly turned into 19 points to help them build a 42-28 halftime advantage.
Facing a fourth straight double-digit deficit midway through the game, LA Tech clawed its way back. This time, the Bulldogs were not only able to even it up but take the lead. And it was Isaiah Crawford putting his team on his back offensively, scoring 12 of their 16 points during a four-minute stretch.
His lone three-pointer of the game got the ‘Dogs to within three at 50-53. Then his assist to Keaston Willis who swished a triple of his own knotted the game up at 53-all with 9:50 to go. Willis hit a couple more from deep, one of which gave LA Tech its largest lead at 65-60 with 3:47 remaining.
The Bulldogs only managed two more points in regulation, which gave the Panthers the opening to tie things at 67-67 on a second-chance layup by Dashon Gittens. Not having Crawford on the floor also helped the visiting team as LA Tech’s leading scorer fouled out late in the stanza.
Even without Crawford though, LA Tech refused to back down in overtime. FIU got a pair of three-pointers by Petar Krivokapic, who was hot all night with seven total from long range, but the Bulldogs did their damage at the free throw line and got a couple of tough layups at the rim – one by Willis high off the glass and another on an offensive putback by Kenny Hunter.
With the home team up one with three seconds remaining, the Panthers got the rebound after a second straight miss at the free throw line by Willis. But, Arturo Dean’s three-point heave at the buzzer clanked off the rim.
After 13 first-half turnovers, LA Tech only committed eight the remaining 25 minutes of the game. They also clamped down on FIU defensively, allowing them to make just nine field goals after halftime.
Five Bulldogs scored in double figures, led by Willis with 18. Isaiah and Jordan Crawford added 16 and 14 points while Hunter recorded his second straight double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Dravon Mangum had 10.
Krivokapic led all scorers with 25 while Denver Jones, the league’s top scorer in conference play, had 19.
Head coach Talvin Hester
“The first half was just like the other first halves lately. But, in the second half we started scrapping. I felt like we lost the last game to FIU by not getting on the floor, getting loose balls. We dominated the glass this time, limiting them to their second-chance opportunities. When we stopped turning the ball over and started getting scrappy, the game took a turn for the better for us.”
“Isaiah Crawford started being tough and aggressive in the second half. He started finishing around the rim, even through contact. When he is playing like that he is a hard guard. And when he fouled out, Jordan Crawford pulled the team together and said, ‘We are not losing.’ He rallied the team up, giving positive energy. The team was disappointed they did not get the stop at the end of regulation. We fought and scrapped in overtime and pulled it out.”
- With the 77-76 victory, LA Tech now leads the all-time series with FIU, 10-8. The last five meetings between the Bulldogs and Panthers have been decided by four points or less.
- The Bulldogs extended their home winning streak over the Panthers to six. They have not lost at home to FIU since the two teams became C-USA opponents.
- LA Tech won their 10th straight home game in the month of March.
- LA Tech played its fifth overtime game, the most the Bulldogs have ever played in a single season. They are one of 14 teams in the country that have played at least five OT games.They are 3-2 in such games.
- The Bulldogs overcame their largest deficit of the season after being down by as much as 16, tying for the fifth largest comeback in the last 50 years.
- LA Tech had a +14 rebounding margin, its largest in league play.
- LA Tech shot 80 percent from the free throw line, marking the 12th time this season they have shot at least 80 percent from the foul line (third time in the last four games).
- Keaston Willis led the Bulldogs in scoring for a sixth time this season with 18 points. He made four three-pointers (eighth time this season with at least four).
- Keaston Willis now has 75 made three-pointers, the seventh most in a single season in program history. He also now has 168 career made triples as a Bulldog, the eighth most in school history.
- Isaiah Crawford netted 16 points, reaching double-digit scoring for the ninth straight game.
- Jordan Crawford was one point shy of tying his career high as the freshman had 14 points.
- Kenny Hunter registered his second straight double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
LA Tech will close out the regular season on Saturday, March 4 against regular season champion Florida Atlantic. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. CT and will be streamed live on ESPN+.
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