Battle for first

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 23, 2003

Troy State basketball coach Don Maestri hopes his team can learn from other team's mistakes.

Belmont, whom the Trojans play at 7 p.m. today on CSS, is in a similar position to Troy State's a week ago.

Seven days ago, a Mercer team came in off a 20-point win and faced a team that had lost at home in its previous outing. The result was a lopsided Troy State win.

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Tonight, Troy State (13-4, 4-1) is coming off an 89-61 win over Mercer while Belmont (9-8, 4-1) will try to rebound from a tough 69-66 double overtime home loss to Georgia State.

"I don't want to say Mercer overlooked us, but they were coming off a 20-point win over Central Florida and we were embarrassed by them at home," Maestri said. "I hope our team learns by watching other teams in the league instead of having to learn things on their own."

Tonight's game will be an early season battle for the top spot in the Atlantic Sun. The two teams sit atop their respective divisions with 4-1 conference records.

Since the conference is split into North and South divisions this season, teams from opposite divisions face each other only once. The first tie-breaker in selecting teams for the conference tournament is head-to-head competition, so games against teams from the other division have added significance.

Interdivisional play began Thursday night and the next six conference games will be played across divisional lines.

Tonight's game will feature an intriguing difference in styles.

The Trojans will try to press and run and shoot three-point shots while the Bruins will try to go inside with their big Adams.

Adam Sonn, a 6-8, 230 senior center, and Adam Mark, a 6-8, 225 junior forward, are in the top 10 in the Atlantic Sun in scoring. Mark leads the league, averaging 17.4 points per game, and Sonn is No. 8 in the A-Sun with 15.8 points per game.

"I hate to sound like a broken record, but this team can also hit from outside," Maestri said. "They like to go down low to the big men, but they can hurt you from outside as well."

Belmont's long-range ability is well documented. The Bruins are third in the Atlantic Sun in three-point shots made. Troy State is first and Samford, TSU's Sunday opponent, is second.