The last time Louisiana Tech was this good Karl Malone patrolled the courts on the university’s Ruston campus.
Second-year coach Michael White might not have a leading man like Malone on his roster, but the program is back among the nation’s best thanks to an ensemble cast that hasn’t lost in more than two months.
Louisiana Tech moved into the Top 25 on Monday for the first time since a 13-week run during the 1984-85 season, edging Colorado State for the No. 25 spot. The Bulldogs (24-3, 14-0 Western Athletic Conference) are on a 16-game winning streak and haven’t lost since an 80-72 setback to McNeese State on Dec. 12.
Louisiana Tech has two home games this week to bask in its newfound popularity – on Thursday against Utah State and Saturday against San Jose State.
“It’s crazy to think about how long it’s been,” said White, 35. “It’s a neat accomplishment. Our kids are excited about it. But does it make us any better on Thursday against Utah State? No. We need to handle this correctly.”
Malone was the unquestioned superstar for the Bulldogs when they advanced to the NCAA’s round of 16 in 1985. White has put together the program’s current run with a deep team that’s led by guard Raheem Appleby, who scores a team-high 14.7 points per game.
Appleby said White’s subtle leadership and trust in his players has led to the success. The Bulldogs often use 11 players in the regular rotation each game, employing a high-energy approach that has worn down opponents.
White has built Louisiana Tech’s program quickly since coming to Ruston in 2011. The Bulldogs finished 18-16 last season, including a 6-8 mark in the WAC, but made a conference tournament run to the finals before losing to New Mexico State. That late-season success was an indication of things to come.
“We’ve got a good group of guys who have sold out to defending,” White said. “We’re offensively challenged at times. Some nights we’re just glad to get off the court one point better than the other team.”