Brown and Ashaolu Are Big Reason for Upswing

Brown and Ashaolu Are Big Reason for Upswing

There are many reasons for the transformation of Louisiana Tech this season, including the maturation of a strong senior core and the addition of playmaking point guard DeAndre Brown.

And then there is the development of 6-7 redshirt sophomore power forward Olu Ashaolu.

He is proving why his recruitment a few years ago was such a big deal. Ashaolu had a reputation as a tenacious rebounder and strong finisher around the basket, earning interest from many major programs.

He originally picked Rutgers, but ended up at Louisiana Tech because of the relationship he and his family had established with assistant coach Nikita Johnson.

Ashaolu has blossomed this season as a full-time starter, averaging 11.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and shooting 54.7 percent from the field. The Bulldogs enter the week at 19-4 overall and 7-2 in the WAC, tied for second with New Mexico State, a half-game behind Utah State.

Ashaolu is a tough matchup for most WAC post players because of his athleticism and occasional ability to step out past the 3-point line.

"He gets better every single day," coach Kerry Rupp told New Orleans.com.

"He's a hard cutter and is getting better at increasing his range. If you put a small, quick guy on him he can pound it inside, and if you put a bigger guy on him he can step out and make plays on the perimeter."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Louisiana Tech, in the thick of the WAC race, drew a TV game for the ESPN BracketBusters event, heading to play at Northeastern on Feb. 20. That's a tough assignment for the Bulldogs. Northeastern, which was leading the Colonial Athletic Conference as of Feb. 6, beat Utah State at Matthews Arena in Boston, 64-61, back in November.

--Louisiana Tech enters this week ranked second in the WAC in field-goal percentage (47.6) and field-goal percentage defense (44.3) in conference games only.

ON THE SPOT: Louisiana Tech is quite capable with its long-range shooting, but must pull out of its recent slump to if it wants to prevent double teams on its post players and keep pace with the league leaders. The Bulldogs entered the Feb. 8 game at New Mexico State having made only 10 of 49 3-pointers in their previous three games.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Any time you can play a good out-of-conference game, it's a chance to showcase your team and its abilities. But our mentality right now is to live in the moment, work hard and make sure we're prepared every night." -- Coach Kerry Rupp, on NewOrleans.com, on the chance to get noticed during the BracketBuster event.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

SEASON RECAP: With middle-of-the WAC expectations, the Bulldogs have been able to surprise behind the senior trio of Kyle Gibson, Magnum Rolle and Jamel Guyton, while getting athleticism and rebounding from sophomore PF Olu Ashaolu and a steadying influence from junior college transfer PG DeAndre Brown. There are several tough challenges ahead, but Tech already has made this something of a landmark season, having received votes in the AP poll for the first time since 1985.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- PG DeAndre Brown, SG Kyle Gibson, SF Jamel Guyton, PF Olu Ashaolu, C Magnum Rolle. Key Subs -- F David Jackson, F Darius Redding, G Yonas Berhe, G Anson Bartlett.

GAME REVIEW: Louisiana Tech 65, Hawaii 60 New Mexico State 91, Louisiana Tech 77 Louisiana Tech 71, San Jose State 64

GAME PREVIEW: at New Mexico State, Monday, Feb. 8 vs. Hawaii, Saturday, Feb. 13 at Utah State, Wednesday, Feb. 17 at Northeastern, Saturday, Feb. 20 vs. Boise State, Thursday, Feb. 25

IN FOCUS: Nobody said winning the WAC or contending for a spot in the NCAA Tournament would be easy. For the Bulldogs to make this season the most it can be, they will have to be great on the road. Louisiana Tech has four difficult WAC road games remaining, starting with New Mexico State; the Bulldogs also have to go to Utah State, Nevada and Fresno State. And then there's the BracketBuster game at Northeastern. It's a tough, tough road ... but it also provides Tech with the chance to impress the NCAA selection committee.

ROSTER REPORT: --Senior G Kyle Gibson is among the national leaders in made free throws, having hit 160 of 183 (87.4 percent). --C Magnum Rolle has led the team in scoring for three consecutive games, scoring 71 points in that span.

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