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End of season near for bulldog basketball

March 24, 2016

MATTHEW VALCHO

Freshman Derric Jean made the game-winner from half court to give the Bulldogs the road victory over Marshall on March 3. Jean’s half-court heave landed Tech on ESPN’s Sportcenter Top 10–Photo by Brian McQuillin

Freshman Derric Jean made the game-winner from half court to give the Bulldogs the road victory over Marshall on March 3. Jean’s half-court heave landed Tech on ESPN’s Sportcenter Top 10–Photo by Brian McQuillin

Sports Editor | mvv002@latech.edu

After many highs, lows and the ending of one of the most storied careers in Louisiana Tech history, the Bulldogs’ season has nearly come to a close.

“I think our team has improved throughout the year and that is really the most important goal for us,” Tech coach Eric Konkol said.

When Konkol took over the men’s basketball program before last season, he stated in his first press conference that his ultimate goal was to send the team to the NCAA Tournament. While that goal was not accomplished this season, the team is certainly moving in the right direction.

“We began the year with many new faces, battled adversity with injuries, and found a way to have a productive year that we can build on,” he said.

While Konkol intends to use what he learned in his first year to better the team in the future, one player who has been a constant for the past four years will not be there.

Senior Alex Hamilton, arguably one of the best to play at Tech, was named the Conference USA Player of the Year this season.

“It is truly a blessing,” Hamilton said at the press conference announcing his award. “This is something I have worked hard for.”

In his last game in the Thomas Assembly Center, Hamilton recorded his first triple-double and only the third in school history.

“It has to be at the top,” Hamilton said after the game against Rice. “It was my last night. It is something I will forever remember. Not that I won’t remember other moments I made with other teammates.”

“For me and the goals that I have achieved, this is something I will remember forever.”

The Bulldogs finished the season with a 23-9 record, the highest win total in the state of Louisiana. Tech will compete against eight other teams from across the country in the inaugural Vegas 16 postseason tournament next week in Las Vegas.

Hamilton and the rest of the Bulldog’s squad have a chance to leave their mark on a postseason tournament in March, even if it is not in the big dance.

“Our team is excited about the opportunity to play deep into the month of March against quality teams in a popular destination,” Konkol said.

The Bulldogs participation in the Vegas tournament breaks the three-year streak of playing in the National Invitational Tournament.

On the opposite side of the bracket from Tech is none other than the team that caused the Bulldogs so much heartache this season, Old Dominion. But Konkol says that is not on the team’s mind.

“Our focus right now is on improving and preparing for our first game against a very good ETSU team,” he said. “We need to use this additional time to keeping working to improve and become more consistent.”

The Bulldogs will take on the East Tennessee State Buccaneers in the quarterfinals of the Vegas 16 on March 28, with the semifinals and finals taking place the following two days. All games of the tournament will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.

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