RUSTON, La. (AP) Kenneth ”Speedy” Smith put back a rebound with 2.2 seconds left to give Louisiana Tech an 89-88 victory against Iona in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament on Wednesday night.
The back-and-forth game featured 14 lead changes and eight ties, with four lead changes in the final 69 seconds as the teams matched shot-for-shot. Iona’s three-quarters court shot in the last seconds ricocheted off the rim.
La. Tech coach Mike White opted not to call timeout after Iona (22-11) took the 88-87 lead with 13.2 seconds on David Laury’s two free throws. Instead, White allowed Smith to set up the final play on the floor himself.
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”I am not smart enough to be more productive than Speedy on the open floor,” White said of his junior point guard.
Smith grabbed the rebound off a missed jumper by Alex Hamilton.
”I just crashed the board and it came our way,” Smith said of the final play. ”Luckily we were able to win this game.
The Bulldogs (28-7) had six players in double figures led by Jaron Johnson’s 15 points. Smith added 14. Louisiana Tech advances to play at Georgia on Saturday.
”We have played some really good offensive teams this year – including Oklahoma – and that was the best offensive team we have played this season,” White said. ”They kept us out of our rhythm defensively.”
Laury led Iona with 21 points and 16 rebounds. A.J. English scored 21 points as well, 19 of which came in the first half.
”With two minutes left in the first half it looked as if the two teams looked at each other like it was a prize fight,” Iona coach Tim Cluess said. ”Neither team let down their guard.”
Chris Anderson had a double-double for the Bulldogs with 13 points and 10 rebounds.