Trojans return home to host Bellhaven
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 3, 2006
The Troy University men's basketball team had little time to celebrate its victory at the Duquesne Holiday Tournament - but at least there was reason to celebrate.
The Trojans outscored Niagara 46-26 in the second half of Saturday's game in Pittsburgh to prevail 87-71 in the championship game.
The Trojans (6-5) are back in action at 7 p.m. today at home against Belhaven in Troy's last game before its inaugural season in the rugged Sun Belt Conference begins.
&uot;I think that gave us some much-needed confidence,&uot; Troy coach Don Maestri said. &uot;The biggest thing was that in both games, we had the lead in the second half and lost it, but then we got it back. In earlier games, we hadn't been able to play through those bad stretches.&uot;
Troy's Bobby Dixon was named the tournament's MVP. Dixon was spectacular in the championship game. He scored a career-high 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting, made eight assists, had two steals and just one turnover in the Trojans' first in-season tournament victory since the school joined Division I.
Maestri said it was more than his numbers, though.
&uot;He played probably as complete a game as he's ever had for us in the championship game,&uot; the coach said. &uot;He just exuded confidence. He played great defense, he dove for loose balls.&uot;
Cedric Jackson added 17 points and 10 rebounds against Niagara, which defeated Troy two years ago in the NIT.
Trailing 61-59 with 12 minutes left, Troy went on a 12-0 run to open a 10-point advantage with 8:15 to play. Jackson and Dixon each scored four points during that run.
Niagara hung tough, cutting Troy's lead to six on three occasions, the last coming at 76-70 with 3:41 to play. Troy scored the next nine points and finished the game on a 17-1 run to bring the final score to 87-71.
Jackson joined Dixon on the all-tournament team. But Maestri said the entire team played well.
&uot;Two win two games like that, everyone has to play well,&uot; he said. &uot;Sammy Sharp hit the boards. Jacob Hazouri played well, so did Jarvis Acker. Daryl Davis played well. Boo Ramsey had some three-pointers go down - and I think that will help his confidence.&uot;
Troy outrebounded Niagara 35-32 and outscored the Purple Eagles 28-18 in the paint.
Maestri said the Trojans will have to come back from that euphoria against Belhaven today.
&uot;On paper, you would say we have more talent,&uot; Maestri said. &uot;But we've had a number of examples over the years that that doesn't mean anything. Christian Brothers came in here and beat us. Southeastern Louisiana beat us earlier this season and Belhaven almost beat them last week. We must be prepared to play the game.&uot;
Troy then opens the Sun Belt Conference schedule on the road at South Alabama. In fact, six of the first eight SBC games are on the road for Troy.
After today, Troy plays just two home games this month - Jan. 19 against Western Kentucky and Jan. 21 against Middle Tennessee State. Before that, they play at South Alabama on Jan. 7, at New Orleans Jan. 12 and at Louisiana-Lafayette Jan. 14.
&uot;We just hung the banners of the other Sun Belt teams in our gym,&uot; Maestri said. &uot;When you see those names, you realize the quality of basketball conference this is.&uot;
Troy returns to the hardwood on Tuesday when it hosts Belhaven at 7 p.m.