Kenneth Smith connected on a put-back shot as time expired to give his Louisiana Tech Bulldogs an 89-88 victory over the Iona Gaels in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament at Thomas Assembly Center.
Smith scored 14 points and dished out six assists for Louisiana Tech (28-7), which will advance to the second round of the NIT to face the Georgia Bulldogs. Jaron Johnson and Kenyon McNeail each led Louisiana Tech in the game with 15 points, while Chris Anderson tallied a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Michale Kyser and Alex Hamilton each netted 12 points in the win, while Hamilton led his squad with seven assists.
A.J. English and David Laury each notched 21 points to pace Iona (22-11), while Laury grabbed a team-high 16 rebounds for the double-double. Isaiah Williams scored 15 points for the Gaels, and Tre Bowman chipped in 14 in the loss.
Louisiana Tech shot 43.5 percent from the floor in the first half, and made 5- of-15 from beyond the 3-point arc. Iona topped the Bulldogs' percentage by connecting on 48.6 percent from the floor, but the two squads went into the intermission knotted at 48 points apiece.
The Bulldogs came out in the second half and improved their shooting accuracy to 48.4 percent from the field, but hit just 3-of-11 from 3-point distance. The Gaels upped their accuracy to 51.9 percent shooting in the period, and made 5-of-7 from deep. Iona held a one-point advantage until Smith hit his put-back on a Hamilton missed jumper as the buzzer sounded.
Louisiana Tech had the advantage in points in the paint, 52-44, and won the battle in rebounding, 43-36. Iona had a 24-20 edge in fast break points in the contest.