Kenneth Lofton Jr. scored a career-high 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead Louisiana Tech to a 70-61 victory over Ole Miss in the first round of the NIT on Friday night in Frisco, Texas.
The Bulldogs (22-7), a No. 4 seed, will next take on No. 3 seed Western Kentucky in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Louisiana Tech, which advanced to the Conference USA tournament semifinals, entered the NIT having won 13 of its previous 16 games.
Jarkel Joiner also finished with 22 points for No. 1 seed Ole Miss (16-12), which was short-handed without All-Southeastern Conference point guard Devontae Shuler and junior forward KJ Buffen.
Shuler was with his family after his mother had surgery. Buffen opted out of the tournament and entered the transfer portal this past week.
The Rebels were down to only five players who averaged more than 10 minutes this season.
Louisiana Tech, which is making its first postseason NIT appearance since 2015, trailed by 10 at halftime before opening the second half on a 22-4 run. Lofton Jr. tied the game at 41 with a layup and then gave the Bulldogs the lead with a free throw and later made another shot at the rim with 11:13 left.
Trailing 18-8 after the game's first 10 minutes, Joiner and Luis Rodriguez broke Ole Miss out of its scoring funk with a 9-0 run. The Rebels outscored the Bulldogs 29-9 the rest of the first half.
Rodriguez finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Matthew Murrell had nine points and seven rebounds and Romello White scored eight points.
But Lofton Jr.'s versatile play outside and attacking the rim flipped the momentum back in the Bulldogs' favor.
Amorie Archibald totaled 14 points, seven assists and three steals and went 10-for-12 from the free throw line. Kalob Ledoux scored 10 points while Cobe Williams and Isaiah Crawford each had eight points.
Ole Miss, one of the better defensive teams in the country, was the one giving the ball away more on Friday night. The Rebels had 21 turnovers while the Bulldogs had only 10.
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