Down to two
Before the season, Troy State's men's basketball team was selected to finish fourth in the Atlantic Sun South Division. With two more wins, Troy State will clinch a share of the conference championship.
The challenge to win the regular season title takes its penultimate step tonight when the Trojans (21-5, 12-2) face the Stetson Hatters (6-18, 4-10) in the second game of a doubleheader. The women's team plays at 5 p.m. and the men's game will follow approximately 30 minutes after the women's game ends.
Stetson, eliminated from tournament contention with a 4-10 conference mark, is not a team Troy State head coach Don Maestri believes can be taken lightly.
"We've learned not to look at a team's record," Maestri said. "We have lost enough games to know you can't look past a team. Stetson's record is unimportant to us."
Troy State got a reminder of how tough a team can be Saturday. The Trojans traveled to Florida Atlantic, another team without a chance at the post season. Rather than playing as if they had nothing to gain, the Owls came out aggressive.
"They came out very loose," Maestri said. "They played us a good game. You would think a team like that would have nothing to play for, but you have to realize, they're facing the end of their season. That's all they have to play for."
Troy State won the first meeting with Stetson, but not by much. The Trojans used a second-half rally – and a torrid 6-for-6 from behind the three-point line in the second half – to withhold the Hatters 85-81.
Stetson has lost two starters since that game – Mark Stiles and Alexis McMillan
– and will have a different style of play than in the last meeting. Although Stetson ran the court in the previous meeting, the Hatters will probably speed the pace of the game even more tonight.
"They have become a trapping, full-court press team," Maestri said. "I'm a little concerned about how we will handle that. We have not faced a team like that all year."
Stetson's change of style contributed to one upset already. The Hatters upset Belmont 85-80 Feb. 8 in Nashville.
Belmont is the North Division champ and could finish tied for the championship with Mercer and Troy State.
Following tonight's game against Stetson, Troy State will finish the regular season at home against Jacksonville. Tipoff for that game is set for 7 p.m.