SHREVEPORT, La. – The LSU Shreveport Pilots men's basketball team finished the 2016-17 regular season with an overall record of 20-8 and 12-6 in the Red River Athletic Conference to earn the no. 2 seed in the six-team RRAC Tournament field held at Rapides Coliseum in Alexandria, Louisiana.
"I'm really proud of our team for the way they came together over the last half of the season," said LSUS coach Kyle Blankenship who is now 107-49 in his 4th year at the helm of the Pilots. "We battled some adversity early, but we overcame that and ended up having a tremendous year."
The Pilots lost two of their first four games in January in conference play but then won nine of their next 10 games including a big win on the road versus then no. 7 Wiley College (67-62) which got them some recognition on the national stage. That win boosted their NAIA Top 25 Coaches' Poll ranking to no. 12.
However, LSUS limped to the finish of the regular season being down a man with Rashard Owens missing the two games as the Pilots lost to no. 25 Our Lady of the Lake 69-65 on the front end of the road trip. His absence was also costly as the Pilots rally fell short in a 104-97 loss to Huston-Tillotson proving that any team in the RRAC can beat in other team on a given night.
"Our conference has been as tough as ever this season," said Blankenship. "We hope to have Rashard back after losing him to injury this past week. We believe that we are a very good team when playing at full strength."
With the second seed in this year's RRAC Tournament, the Pilots will receive a first-round bye and will play in the second Semi-Final game on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Rapides Coliseum. They will face the highest seed remaining from Thursday's first round games which feature no. 4 OLLU (18-8) vs no. 5 Wiley (22-8) at 5:30 p.m. and no. 3 Langston (20-8) against no. 6 St. Thomas (13-17) at 7:30 p.m.
This season the Pilots defeated each team in this year's tournament with the exception of no. 1 LSUA but then again no team had any success against them as they enter the tournament undefeated on the season at 29-0. The Pilots did have them on the ropes at The Dock as the Pilots led by three with four minutes left. However the Generals did what they have done all year and closed out the game with the win.
Of the five other teams in the tournament, the only team that LSUS beaten both times this year was the Langston Lions who hold the no. 3 seed and it is possible that the two could meet in the semis if they can get past a tough St. Thomas squad.
"Our top 5 teams are all national tournament worthy, while St. Thomas has proven they can play with anyone in the league," said Blankenship. "There will not be any easy outs in this year's conference tournament."
The Pilots have won a total of seven conference tournaments in their history but have just two RRAC titles with the last coming in 2012. The winner of the tournament will get the second automatic bid to the National Tournament in Kansas City, Missouri. If LSUA, who holds the other automatic bid for winning the regular season, maintains their unbeaten streak then the bid will go to the team that faces them in the finals.
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|20-10 (.667)||12-6 (.667)||Lost 4|