Louisiana Tech Basketball defeats North Texas to play for Conference USA Championship
Louisiana Tech hasn’t won a conference basketball tournament since winning the Southern United States Championship in 1991. Thirty-one years later, the Bulldogs have a shot at winning the tournament title. Conference USA and an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Third-seeded Louisiana Tech defeated first-seeded North Texas 42-36 in the semifinals in Frisco, Texas on Friday. Sophomores Keaston Willis and Cobe Williams led the Bulldogs with 12 points.
The Bulldogs (24-9) will face the winner of 1-seeded Middle Tennessee and 3-seeded UAB in the championship game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS Sports Network.
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Louisiana Tech goes 13-0
Louisiana Tech trailed North Texas 10-2 with 8:39 left in the first half, and then the offense came to life. Louisiana Tech went 13-0, including two 3-pointers from Willis, to take a 15-10 lead with 4:49 remaining. The Bulldogs shot 1 of 12 from the field before the run.
North Texas has one of the best defenses in the nation, but was outscored 19-3 in the final 8:39 of the first half. Louisiana Tech held a 21-13 halftime lead with leading scorer Kenneth Lofton Jr. held to three points.
North Texas offense falters, despite stellar defense
Louisiana Tech was held scoreless with 15:43 remaining in the first half when the first media timeout was called. However, North Texas only managed to get 1 of 6 out of the field during that span and it ultimately cost them a trip to the title match.
Five seconds after the timeout, the Bulldogs scored.
North Texas led the nation in holding opponents to 55.4 points per game going into Friday’s game. Mean Green’s defensive dominance continued. The Bulldogs shot 38% from the field with eight turnovers. However, North Texas couldn’t score.
The Mean Green shot 14% from the field in the first half and missed 11 of their last 12 field goal attempts and that continued into the second half. In the end, North Texas shot 24.1 percent from the field and 2 of 10 from the 3-point line. Thomas Bell had a team-high 10 points.
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Lofton Jr. delivers at the end
Lofton led Louisiana Tech in scoring in both regular season matchups against North Texas. However, the Bulldogs have been swept by the defending conference champions this season.
None of that mattered with Lofton at the free throw line with 50 seconds left. The sophomore made two free throws to increase the lead to 37-32, while the Bulldogs have missed 14 of their last 15 field goal attempts. He had two more free throws with 3.9 seconds left to seal the victory.
Lofton finished with nine points and 12 rebounds.