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February 7, 2014

Tech seniors continue to take charge


With leading scorer Raheem Appleby out with an injury, the Louisiana Tech seniors are filling the void.

When Louisiana Tech leading scorer Raheem Appelby (16.1 ppg) went down with an injury, second leading scorer Alex Hamilton (15.1 ppg) figured to shoulder the bulk of the scoring load. Arguably the best all around player on the team, the sophomore from Chipley, Florida has put up big numbers in Appleby's absence.

Against Marshall and Charlotte, Hamilton scored 22 and 24 points, leading the Bulldogs to victory. As the only scorer in double digits for Tech Head Coach Mike White, Hamilton has felt the pressure to perform. He shot just 31% in the first three games with Appleby, then picked that up to 51% in the next three games. In the team's last two games, wins over UTSA and Tulsa, Hamilton was 3-15 combined.

Junior Point Guard Kenneth "Speedy" Smith is the catalyst for Coach White and he has picked up the energy level for the Bulldogs. In the last eight games, Smith is averaging 8.5 points and 9.6 assists. Still, with all of Speedy's ball pressure and fantastic passes, someone has to put the ball in the hole. In the last several games, it has been the seniors who have answered the call.

Against Tulsa, it was Jaron Johnson with 18 points and 4 rebounds carrying the load before Kenyon McNeail sealed the deal. McNeail played great defense down the stretch and hit 7 of 8 free throws to finish with 13 points. Against UTSA, it was Chris Anderson with a career high 26 points and 11 rebounds. McNeail chipped in with 15 points on 5 of 8 shooting from deep. Cordarius Johnson kept the Bulldogs in the game with 14 points and he had 7 rebounds against both Tulane and Charlotte. Johnson, from Coushatta, LA, had 11 points and 3 steals against UTSA. His biggest game was a week before Appleby's injury. The 6-5 senior scored 17 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals in Tech's win over Oklahoma. Jaron Johnson has scored in double figures in all but one of the games since Appley went down. Anderson has done the same in all but two, when he scored 9 and 8. McNeail continually hits big shots and put up 22 points against Marshall.

"If we had Raheem we would be really deep," said Coach White. "Lately, Jaron and Kenyon have gotten a lot more opportunities and they have really stepped up. Alex struggled some on his own, but a lot because of Tulsa, just like Chris' night. We went with Kenyon there late and he continued to make plays so he continued to earn more minutes. I thought he was really good offensively, not only getting to the rim a couple times, but setting up other guy's opportunities to drive. He was also fantastic in our press, I thought, with Speedy Smith."

Louisiana Tech is in the middle of a three game home stand. They finish the season with four of their last five on the road beginning February 20th at East Carolina. The seniors have held down the fort in Appleby's absence. Hopefully for Coach White and his Bulldogs, he will have his full squad complete as they finish the regular season and head into the conference tournament.

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