• 68°

Troy State defense comes

up big to finish off Mercer

By STEVEN G. WATSON

Sports Editor

On a night highlighted by 3-pointers, it was the Troy State defense that got the final say in the Trojans’ 69-66 win over the Mercer Bears.

In a game in which the two teams dropped 19 treys on Trojan Arena, Troy State made three huge defensive stops up by only two points, to pull out their third straight victory over Trans America Athletic Conference foes.

Down by only one with a little over a minute left, the Trojans’ one-man wrecking crew, Detric Golden, showed the Bears why he is the leading scorer in the TAAC. Golden put TSU on his back and scored nine-straight points including a long-range 3-pointer to give the Trojans a 68-66 lead with only 1:11 left. That was when the Troy State defense took center stage.

After flying past a Mercer guard out top going for the steal, Eugene Christopher reversed his direction and had just enough time to get to the far right corner and swat a Mercer jump shot out of the air.

Then for an encore, Christopher and the rest of the Trojan defense built a wall around the Mercer basket stopping them short each time they had to.

Chris Hill, who had been stroking it from long range all night for the Bears, got off an off-balanced trey just before the buzzer to win it, but it was off to the right and Jacova Jenkins came down with the rebound to ice the win.

"Eugene Christopher tonight, his defensive intensity, especially in the last six minutes of the game," TSU head coach Don Maestri said. "He made a play in the corner that may have been one of the best defensive plays I’ve seen.

"Obviously we weren’t very sharp and didn’t execute as well as we would have liked offensively," he continued. "We didn’t do a good job of rebounding the basketball at all, but in the last seven or eight minutes of the game when we had to really make some big plays they did."

Robert Rushing brought the hot hand for the Trojans on the night. The sophomore guard hit a perfect 5-of-5 from beyond the 3-point line and finished with 16 points, while Christopher was also perfect from trey land going 2-of-2 and hitting for 14 on the night. Golden had 16 and the Trojans hit an amazing 62.5 percent from beyond the arch hitting 10-of-16.

The win sets up a battle of the TAAC’s best next week as the Trojans host two huge conference games with Samford (8-5, 3-1) coming to town on Thursday and Jacksonville State (8-3, 4-0) showing up Saturday.

"We’re really proud of these players," Maestri said. "They’re in an excellent position and this is really going to make basketball exciting this coming week. If you have any love for exciting basketball you have a great chance to see two fantastic games coming up next week."