TAAC showdown at Trojan Arena tonight

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 13, 2000

Sports Editor

When looking at Samford’s lineup it doesn’t take long to see why tonight’s game will be the biggest test so far for Troy State.

The Bulldogs come in with a 10-5 record overall and a 5-1 mark in the Trans America Athletic Conference. The early league loss to Jacksonville (73-71) back in December has the Bulldogs hungry for TAAC wins and the Trojans (8-4, 4-0) would be a perfect meal for the preseason favorites to run away with the conference crown.

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Troy State’s surprising start of four-straight TAAC wins has put a target on their backs early on, but the Trojans hope to show they have the weapons and the poise to defend their home floor and their undefeated conference record.

"We’re in a unique position this year because we’re 4-0," TSU head coach Don Maestri said. "People might say hey, that’s great, but it also tells you that Samford isn’t coming in here taking us lightly. They think we’re in their position. They’ll fire up for us as much as we’ll fire up to maintain our position. We’re going to have to match their intensity level step for step if we hope to win this one."

The game will feature the league’s two highest scoring offenses, top 3-point shooting clubs and a pair of teams that rank in the top three of almost every statistical category in the TAAC.

Not only that, but the contest will also feature the league’s top two scorers in Troy State’s Detric Golden who is averaging 17.2 points per game and Marc Salyers who hits 17.3 a game for Samford. Three other players from both teams average in double figures in scoring and six of the top 10 3-point shooters in the TAAC will be competing in the game with each sporting an average better than 42 percent.

All arrows point to tonight’s game being an offensive onslaught, but both teams will do their best on defense to turn the tide in their favor.

"We are going to try and play a moderate defense," Maestri said of trying to stop Samford. "You don’t want to give up to many layups and you can’t let them get on a real streak of hitting three’s. They’re going to get some layups and they’re going to get some three’s, but you just can’t give them to many all at once.

"For us to have a chance at success we’re just going to have to be at the top of our game," he continued. "I don’t mean just the starting five, I mean every player on the team. They don’t beat themselves and they don’t give you anything easy."

While the game might be a benchmark game and maybe the next step for the Trojans as they try to improve, there will be very little time to dwell on an outcome, be it positive or negative. Saturday TSU has to get right back on the court for another highly-important matchup with arch-rival Jacksonville State who is also undefeated in TAAC play.

"The one thing that I’ve become proud of in this team is that we haven’t gotten to high on big wins and we’ve never gotten to down on heartbreaking losses," Maestri said. "I would hope that no matter what happens Thursday that we will handle it the same way because we have a game against a team that’s 5-0 in this league on Saturday that happens to be our biggest rival.

"The great thing is that it’s early in the season so you know you have 13 more games to go after Thursday’s game," he added. "Anything can happen, positive or negative so you can’t get to wrapped up in Thursday’s outcome. But it is a great challenge to play a great team, in Troy, when you’re in a position that we’re in which is 4-0."

Game time is set for 7 p.m. tonight at Trojan Arena .