RUSTON, La. - Sophomore guard Cordarius Johnson (Coushatta, La.) scored 19 points as Louisiana Tech (5-5) survived a late rally from McNeese State (4-5) on Wednesday night 60-58 in front of 2,426 fans at the Thomas Assembly Center.
"At the end of the game we started to play not to lose and became timid with the basketball," said head coach Michael White. "Guys were running from the ball instead of embracing the situation that we were in."
Both teams traded baskets early in the first half before the Bulldogs took a five point lead, 14-9, at the 13:41 mark on a three-pointer from Johnson.
The Cowboys came back to take a 20-19 advantage after two free throws from Patrick Richard with 7:28 remaining in the period. Both teams kept it close for the next 4:09 as the game was tied up four times during that time.
Tech was able to get some breathing room heading into halftime with six-point lead, 34-28, after a three-point basket from freshman guard Raheem Appleby (Jacksonville, Ark.) with 38 seconds remaining.
In the second half, the Bulldogs came out firing on all cylinders as they were able to push their advantage to 13 with 7:29 left after a fast break layup from freshman guard Kenneth Smith (St. Petersburg, Fla.) that began with a steal by Appleby.
McNeese State then made a furious comeback as they outscored Tech 15-4 the rest of the way.
On the final position of the game, senior guard Trevor Gaskins (Alpharetta, Ga.) stripped the ball from Richard as he went up for a three-point attempt at the top of the arc with just over three seconds left on the clock. Jeremie Mitchell was able to steal the ball back from Gaskins near half-court but his last-second attempt came after the clock hit zero.
Johnson was the only Bulldog to score in double-figures and has contributed at least 10 points in eight games this season.
"Cordarius [Johnson] has worked hard on his own and in the gym to get where he is right now," White said. "He is our best athlete and has pushed himself to limits that he has not reached before because of the limited playing he had last season."
Sophomore guard Kenyon McNeail (Conway, Ark.) and Souza contributed eight points apiece while McNeail dished out a career-high nine assists. Junior forward J.L. Lewis (Gonzales, La.) blocked a career-best four shots and Gaskins lead the squad with seven rebounds and two steals.
The Bulldogs shot 43 percent from the field while they were credited with an assist on 18 of their 24 made field goals.
For McNeese State, Richard recorded a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds while also having a team-best five assists. Adrian Fields also broke the double-digit mark in scoring with 12 points.
As a team, the Cowboys were 19-of-55 on field goals including 3-for-14 from beyond the arc while at the free throw line they shot 74 percent, 17-of-23.
With the victory, Tech has now won 21 straight games against non-conference opponents in the TAC, setting a new program record.
Louisiana Tech continues their homestand on Saturday when they host Arkansas-Little Rock of the Sun Belt Conference with tipoff set for 7 p.m. in the TAC.