Inside play will be key for Troy

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 3, 2005

Troy University has the experience.

Gardner-Webb University has the size.

Troy head coach Don Maestri would gladly swap a little experience for a little more size.

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&uot;I hope that everyone who is talking about how our experience in the tournament gives us an advantage (over Gardner-Webb) is right, but they must know something I don't,&uot; Maestri said with a laugh. &uot;I'd be more than happy to swap some of that experience for one of those 6-foot-9 kids to put at center. Maybe the experience will help us. I don't know, yet. I hope it gives a little edge and gets a couple of extra points. We're certainly looking for any edge we can find.&uot;

The Trojans boast just five players over 6-foot-6, with four logging considerable minutes and just two that start the game on the court. Gardner-Webb has six players 6-foot-6 or taller on the roster, with two that start for the Runnin' Bulldogs.

While the Trojans and the Runnin' Bulldogs appear to matchup well on paper, Maestri believes No. 1-seeded Gardner-Webb has a distinct advantage when it comes to size.

&uot;They have some guys that are really a force on the inside,&uot; Maestri said. &uot;They have the size to get in there and bang around, and for a team like us that doesn't really have the size to play inside, that can cause problems if you aren't shooting the ball well, which we haven't done lately.&uot;

In the teams' last matchup, Gardner-Webb outrebounded Troy 49-27. The Runnin' Bulldog effort was led by 6-foot-9, 250-pound junior Simon Conn. Conn snagged 17 rebounds to go along with his 22 points in a 76-69 Gardner-Webb win.

&uot;The Conn kid really hurt us last time,&uot; Maestri said.

&uot;We know that we aren't going to stop him from getting rebounds and we understand that we aren't going to win the rebounding battle. We haven't won one all year, but what we have to do is keep it closer than we did last time. If we can do that, then we can give ourselves a chance to win if we eliminate the mistakes we have been making.&uot;

While Troy's experience and Gardner-Webb's size has garnered its share of attention leading up to the squads' first-round showdown, according to Maestri, all the talk is for naught if Troy doesn't correct the mistakes of the past two games. Troy also has to hit some three pointers.

&uot;It won't matter how well we rebound if we don't start playing better basketball,&uot; Maestri said. &uot;We have to stop turning the ball over so much. It's come to the point that we are giving the ball up without the other team forcing us to do it. It's our own fault, and as a coach that drives you crazy. Obviously, we need to narrow the rebounding margin and as everyone knows, we live and die by the three, so some of those have got to start falling for us.&uot;

In Troy's final two games with Lipscomb and Belmont, Troy turned the ball over a combined 23 times, while connecting on just 25-of-69 three-point attempts. Troy lost both games.

The Trojans will look to keep their dream of advancing to the NCAA Tournament alive today at noon when they take on Gardner-Webb at the Curb Event Center in Nashville.

The game will be carried on WTBF.