RUSTON – On Saturday morning, senior Erik McCree received his diploma from Dr. Les Guice in a private graduation in the Thomas Assembly Center.
Five hours later, he was getting a standing ovation from the crowd as the forward finished his final game on Karl Malone Court.
He made the most of his final home game too, scoring 18 points as one of five Louisiana Tech players to post double figures to help cruise to a 93-65 victory over Southern Miss.
“We had a very full day,” head coach Eric Konkol said. “Erik received his diploma. It was very special. When a guy graduates in your program, it is one of those things you always remember. For Dr. Guice and his leadership team to take the time to do that for Erik, that was special.
“Then to have a senior day for him, Qiydar and Da’Shawn, it was a full and special day. Erik is a terrific player and a wonderful person. He will be a great representative of this University for a very long time. He has become such a great player with late night hours in the gym by himself. He has put in a lot of time and he is deserving of so much.”
McCree did not have to carry the team in his shoulders as he has done from time to time. The Bulldogs ended up making a season-high 14 three-pointers in the win.
Two of those came from McCree. Four more came from junior Jacobi Boykins who finished with 17 points. Six more came from freshman Jalen Harris who had a game-high 20 points (was a perfect 6-for-6 until missing his last two attempts).
Meanwhile in the paint, the big guys Omar Sherman and Joniah White registered 15 and 10 points, respectively.
“We need everybody,” Konkol said. “It is very important that we have contributions from everybody on both sides of the ball. Jalen Harris provides a real spark off the bench. He has got scoring ability. He has a big frame rebounding the basketball. It is really important for us to keep working as we try to get better in preparation for Birmingham.”
LA Tech (22-9, 14-4 C-USA) found itself trailing four minutes into the contest by one point to a pesky Southern Miss (9-21, 6-12 C-USA) team.
The offensive switch finally came on though. The Bulldogs went on a 10-0 run and never looked back.
They led 49-33 at the halfway point and extended the lead that was never in danger to as much as 30 late in the second stanza to pick up win No. 22 on the year and win No. 15 in the TAC.
LA Tech shot 50 percent from the field (31-62) and 45 percent from behind the arc (14-31). More impressive, the Bulldogs had 23 assists to only six turnovers and outrebounded the Golden Eagles by six.
Southern Miss was limited to 40 percent shooting for the game (23-58) with two players in double figures, led by Quinton Campbell who had 19. Their leading scorer Cortez Edwards was held to just six points and committed four turnovers.
LA Tech will be the No. 2 seed in the C-USA Tournament presented by MetroPCS which gets underway in Birmingham, Alabama on Wednesday, March 8. The Bulldogs earned a first round bye and will play the winner of the No. 7 and No. 10 seed on Thursday at a time to be determined.
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