This item originally appeared in the February 17, 2005 issue of The Tech Talk.
By KYLE ROBERTS
Associate Sports Editor
The winning continued for Bulldog basketball this past weekend, and with six regular season games left, Tech's head coach Keith Richard anticipates an intense finish in the Western Athletic Conference race.
After winning seven of their last eight games, with the only loss to first place Nevada, the Bulldogs (13-9, 8-5 WAC) are gearing up for the six-game stretch before the conference tournament in Reno, Nev., beginning March 8.
Richard said the main reasons for his team's success have been guard play, defense and shortening the bench.
"I've seen a couple of things emerge," Richard said. "Number one, our guard play has been better than before. We've had more scoring out of our guards, which has helped our post players. [Sophomore forward] Paul [Millsap] has played much better in these last eight games because our guards have played better. The good shooting has made the post area less crowded, which helps our big guys play better.
"Number two, we keep defending well. We're second in the conference in field goal defense percentage and first in defending the three-point line. Our defense has done well all year while waiting for our offense to get better, particularly our guards.
"The last thing that's emerged is that we've shortened the bench. We've put it on our seniors to either make or break this season. So we play our starters a lot. While that's bad at some times because of fatigue, it's also a small reason why we've won seven out of our last eight games."
Another reason the Bulldogs have been successful is because they have won their last five home games.
"Before this past weekend, we told the team we had eight games left," Richard said. "After we had such a poor start in conference, we have gotten ourselves back in position to go one way or the other. Last year we were 11-9 in this same calendar week. This year, with eight games to go, we really talked about defending our home court. Five of our last eight games are at home, so we put a lot of emphasis on defending our home-court last week."
Prior to the Hawaii game last Thursday night, Richard showed clips from the No. 2 University of North Carolina versus No. 8 Duke that was played the night before, when Duke triumphed 71-70 to defend their home-court. Ironically, the Bulldogs beat Hawaii by the same score.
"I wanted to show the kids how Duke defended their home court," Richard said. "Duke had eight games left, too, and it was a big game that meant something. I wanted to show them that you have to refuse to lose at home. I think we accomplished that this past weekend. In particular, in the Hawaii game, we played great in the first half, but not-so-well in the second half. But in the last few minutes, our team refused to lose and give up at home, and we walked out of there with a win. We're 2-0 in our final eight games of the regular season, and that's how we're looking at it."
The Bulldogs blew out the San Jose State Spartans on Saturday night 72-55 in a rematch, after the Spartans beat Tech 88-87 earlier in the season.
All five starters finished in double digit scoring, with senior guard Corey Dean and junior guard Daevon Haskins leading with 14 points. Millsap ended the night with another double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds, while senior guard Donell Allick also finished with 13 points. Senior forward Wayne Powell rounded out the scoring with 10 points and eight rebounds.
Two nights prior, the Bulldogs started strong but had to hold on to beat the University of Hawaii Warriors 71-70.
Millsap's 28 point, 13 rebound effort garnered him WAC Player of the Week honors for Feb. 7-13, while Powell also got a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
The Bulldogs were downed on Feb. 5, by WAC rival Nevada 76-58 for their first loss after a five game winning-streak. Millsap again led the way with 20 points and eight rebounds, while Haskins added 12 points and Allick added 11. Tech also finished off Fresno State in California on Feb. 3, 79-72 when Millsap posted 28 points and 12 rebounds.