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LA Tech’s a mystery to MU fans

January 24, 2019

Who, what and where is Louisiana Tech University?

We don’t know.

The only thing Marshall University fans are certain of is the Thundering Herd men’s basketball team plays Louisiana Tech at 9 p.m. Thursday in Thomas Assembly Center at Ruston, Louisiana.

Otherwise?

Nada.

That’s because among Conference USA’s 14 members, Louisiana Tech is the only one that’s a virtual unknown to Marshall’s fan base.

Anybody ever been to Ruston, Louisiana?

Me neither.

Mostly that’s because in C-USA’s infinite scheduling wisdom, Marshall’s football program has never played the Bulldogs in 28,019-seat Joe Aillet Stadium despite the fact LA Tech joined the league in 2013.

Worse yet, in six seasons Marshall still hasn’t played a regular-season football game — home or away — against LA Tech. That streak ends in 2019, as LA Tech is scheduled to play Marshall on Nov. 16 in Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

The only time Marshall and LA Tech have squared off in football was the 2014 C-USA championship game in “The Joan.” Marshall won, 26-23.

But basketball-wise?

Just about none of us has a clue what it’s like to play on Karl Malone Court in the 8,000-seat Thomas Assembly Center. So, in the quest for enlightenment, I reached out to a veteran source — Marshall point guard Jon Elmore.

“They have a really nice arena,” said the 6-foot-3 senior. “It’s one of my favorite places to play in the conference, actually.”

Elmore has played in the Thomas Assembly Center just once. That was during the 2016-17 season when Marshall dropped a 94-90 decision to LA Tech. But Elmore played well, contributing 14 points and 11 assists.

“I know it’s a tough place to win,” he said. “I know their home record over the past few years has been really good. You see the coaches that have came out of there — you’ve got Mike White at the University of Florida and the coach there now (Eric Konkol) has got them playing well.

“It’s a tough environment to play in, but I like our chances against anybody right now.”

Marshall has a 2-2 record against Louisiana Tech during Elmore’s tenure.

Elmore’s first game vs. LA Tech was in the 2015-16 season. Despite his 18 points and 10 assists, the Bulldogs won, 97-94, on a last-second, half-court shot in the Henderson Center.

Then, after losing during regular-season competition to LA Tech in a game at Ruston, the Herd knocked off the Bulldogs, 93-77, in the semifinals of the 2017 Conference USA Tournament. Elmore scored 21 points.

During a 78-65 win over the Bulldogs in Huntington during the 2017-18 season, Elmore scored 32 points with nine rebounds and five assists.

That sets the stage for the Thursday-night battle.

“They usually get solid crowds in there,” said Elmore. “It’s a tough environment to play in. You don’t hear a lot about it, you’re right. Nobody talks about LA Tech too much. It’s tough being all the way down there.”

So, what is there to do in Ruston, Louisiana?

“Oh, shoot, we didn’t get out much,” said Elmore. “I haven’t even seen it, to be honest.”

Small town?

“It could be,” said Elmore. “I have no idea, to be honest. I’ve never even been around down there.”

The population of 21,859 says it all. It’s also why Marshall’s charter flight has to land 30 minutes away in Monroe, Louisiana.

So, welcome to far-flung C-USA.

Cajun style.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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