RUSTON – Kenneth Lofton, Jr. and Cobe Williams combined for 36 points in helping Louisiana Tech defeat UAB, 70-58, on Friday night inside the Thomas Assembly Center on Karl Malone Court.
Williams ignited LA Tech (16-6, 9-4 C-USA) in the first half, scoring 13 of his 15 through the first 20 minutes action. In the second half, Lofton, Jr. carried the Bulldogs to the finish line, scoring 13 of his career-high 21 points in the stanza as they put an end to UAB’s (16-3, 9-2 C-USA) six-game winning streak.
Aside from the offensive output by the freshman and sophomore, having just one more turnover than the Blazers and only allowing the visitors to score five points off those forced turnovers was a major key to victory.
“We talked about turnovers every single day, all day long in the lead up to this game,” said head coach Eric Konkol. “It was so important for us to take care of the basketball. We needed to get as many shots as we could get. UAB is electric at scoring off of turnovers. I thought we got a little loose it in the second half, but we were able to take care of it well enough to get the win.
“I thought the crowd was special. Having the 1,200 fans in here and multiplying themselves with their voices and enthusiasm was a huge lift for us tonight as well.”
The Bulldogs made their first two field goals of the night, but went cold for the next six minutes, making just one of their next nine attempts. As a result, the Blazers built an early 12-7 lead.
Xaiver Armstead came off the bench and got LA Tech out of its shooting funk, draining a corner three. The triples continued to fall as Kalob Ledoux and Isaiah Crawford buried one apiece.
Later on, Williams splashed two in a row and got a tip-in to fall just before halftime to give the ‘Dogs a 40-29 advantage at the midway point.
“Cobe really ignited us in the first half,” said Konkol. “He knocked down some big threes. The tip-in right before the half was a big one. And defensively, he is one of the best around with his on-ball defense, getting over screens, doing a lot of different things.”
UAB started to chip away though in the second half. The Blazers sank five straight baskets, including back-to-back jump shots from Michael Ertel, to get to within five at 48-43 with 13:30 still to go.
After three made free throws by JaColby Pemberton and a tough two by Ledoux pushed the Bulldog lead to nine, Lofton, Jr. took over the ball game offensively.
The freshman scored 13 of LA Tech’s final 17 points, including two three-point plays with the second one giving the ‘Dogs their largest lead of the game at 65-46 with 5:19 to go.
“We were trying to use clock and there is such a balance between being patient and being passive,” said Konkol. “I thought we toed the line a little bit there. The guys ended up doing a great job of feeding Junior, finding him in one-on-one coverage.
“It was Lofton’s night tonight. He has become more consistent. The strength of our team is we have a number of guys that can have a night. Tonight was his.”
He added a game-high 12 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season, which is tied for the second most in Conference USA. LA Tech shot 47.4 percent from the field (27-57) and made 11 of its 12 free throws.
UAB shot 44.4 percent from the field (24-54). Tavin Lovan had a team-high 11 points for the Blazers.
LA Tech and UAB will square off in game two of the series on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. The matchup will be broadcast by Stadium.
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