Saturday, November 23, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Ex-Devils shine, Tech rolls UCA

LTU Sports Information

CONWAY – It was home sweet home for Arkansas natives Raheem Appleby and Kenyon McNeail as the duo combined to score 39 points in leading the Bulldogs to a 94-57 win over Central Arkansas on Wednesday night in the Farris Center.

The game-high 21 points from Appleby, a junior from Jacksonville, were particularly special since the guard became the 35th Bulldog to reach 1,000 points.

“I was pleased with the overall effort and energy level of our guys on both sides of the basketball,” said head coach Michael White. “I thought that we got good contributions from a number of our guys offensively and defensively, but overall I thought we played extremely hard. That is the first step in giving yourself a chance to win on the road.”

Central Arkansas (1-2) came into the game averaging 101 points per game and wanted to make it a track meet from the get go, but LA Tech (2-1) was up to the challenge and then some.

After three missed scoring opportunities on the `Dogs’ opening possession, UCA had a jumper fall to give them a 2-0 lead. It would be all LA Tech for the next five minutes.

Six different Bulldogs scored during an 18-0 run, including back-to-back three-pointers from the Conway native McNeail, who came off the bench.

UCA cut the lead down to 12, 20-8, on a fast break dunk and a three pointer by DeShone McClure, another former Jacksonville Red Devil, but the `Dogs raced right back with an 18-4 run capped by an under handed layup from Kenneth Smith.

Later, Appleby drained a three from the corner and then with three seconds left in the half put in a layup off the glass from the baseline, giving the `Dogs a 47-19 advantage at the break.

“We tried to play some zone early and try to slow the game down,” said UCA head coach Clarence Finley. “But they knocked down dome threes and got it inside, so we had to get out of it. They got it up to a 16-point lead and we had to play some man, and they were just too strong for us.

“And I thought their press gave us some problems. We had a freshman that didn’t get in the middle of the zone like we had worked on it, and we ended up with 20-something turnovers. They were just very long and very athletic, and we didn’t handle the pressure.”

The second half began much like the first half with UCA getting on the scoreboard first, this time with one of their eight three-pointers. Then in just 35 seconds, LA Tech poured in seven straight points.

Appleby hit a jumper with 6:53 remaining to give the Bulldogs a 76-38 lead, but it was his next two shots 20 seconds later that made the history.

Even though one would think he would hit a running floater to make his 1,000th point, it turned out to be two simple free throws that got him to the mark. He scored his next two points though on a high-flying dunk, giving LA Tech their largest lead of the game, 80-38.

In scripted fashion, McNeail followed with a conventional three-point play to give him 18 points.

The Arkansas duo was subbed out by coach White with less than two minutes remaining and given a big round of applause by the Bulldog fans who made the trek to Conway.

“[Raheem and Kenyon] are two great young men that I have had the privilege to coach and that I was very happy to see play well in front of their friends and family,” White said.

As much as the Bulldog offense was clicking on all cylinders, it was largely created by their suffocating defense in the victory.

The team scored 34 points off 24 turnovers and Michale Kyser swatted five blocks, giving him 17 in just three games this season.

LA Tech ended the game shooting 34-of-75 from the field for 45 percent and limiting the Bears to just 35 percent shooting.

UCA was led by McClure, who had a team-high 19 points.

LA Tech returns to action on Monday at 11 a.m. in an opening round contest versus UNC Greensboro in the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Fla.

The Bears will hit the road for a Sunday afternoon matchup with Arkansas State in Jonesboro. Tip-off is 2 p.m. at the Convocation Center. UCA is back home hosting Troy on Tuesday night at 7.