TAAC’s best comes to Troy

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 19, 2001

Sports Editor

Looking at the current Trans America Athletic Conference statistics, it’s easy to see why Georgia State is sitting in first place. The Panthers lead the league in scoring offense, scoring margin, field goal percentage, steals and turnover margin.

They’re 14-2 overall and 5-1 in conference play. They’ve got an impressive resume of wins, which includes victories over SEC foe Georgia, Conference USA power UAB and Hawaii out of the WAC. They return the majority of a team that went 17-12 last season and shared the regular season TAAC championship with Troy State.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

And the Panthers will be in Troy on Saturday night looking to dig the Trojans’ hole a little deeper as far as the conference standings are concerned. TSU (6-9, 2-4) dropped two straight league games this past weekend to Jacksonville State and Samford, falling down the TAAC ladder even more to eighth place with Campbell coming in on Thursday night.

According to Troy State head coach Don Maestri, his team won’t be just dealing with the best team in the conference, but probably one of the best teams in the nation.

"At one point this season they were at No. 30 in the power ratings and I’m sure they haven’t dropped past 50 now," he said. "They have got a number of potential NBA players on that team. This will probably be the best basketball team we’ve face all year. We’re going to have to play a super game just to even make it competitive. This game’s going to be an uphill battle for us."

In Shenard Long, the Panthers possess one of the best guards in the league and one that leads the TAAC in scoring, (18.9 ppg).

Long, (6-4, 200), transferred to Georgia State in 1998 from Georgetown. He led the Hoyas in scoring, recording a season high 30 points against Boston College. Last season, Long became eligible after the Panthers’ seventh game and Georgia State went 16-6 with him in the lineup. He was named first team All-TAAC, finishing as the league’s No. 1 steal man, (2.9), and recorded 18 games in double figures.

Thus far this season, Long is third in steals with a 2.50 average, but teammate Kevin Morris comes into Saturday’s game as the league leader, averaging almost three per game. Morris was TAAC Newcomer of the Year in 1998-99.

And then there’s the head coach.

Throughout college basketball, the name Charles "Lefty" Driesell has become synonymous with winning. Driesell ranks as seventh on the All-Time Winningest Coaches list, (733), and ninth in Most 20-Win Seasons with an even 20. He’s coached 12 All-Americans, nine first round NBA draft picks and made 12 NCAA Tournament appearances while coaching at Davidson, Maryland and James Madison.

"There’s not doubt that Lefty is one of the best coaches in America," said Maestri. "He just does a wonderful job getting his team motivated. "

The Trojans and Panthers not only split the regular season championship last season, but also their two regular season games. Georgia State downed the Trojans, 83-77, in the first meeting in Troy, but TSU returned the favor nine days later in Atlanta, handing the Panthers a 72-58 loss.