Troy has hoops doubleheader on Saturday night

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 3, 2006

There is no time to wallow for Troy University's men's basketball team.

The Trojans were blown out at Arkansas State on Wednesday night. Troy suffered through a nightmarish first half that was on pace to set school records for futility.

Troy trailed 50-17 at halftime. That 33-point margin threatened the program's worst loss - 137-70 against Arkansas in 1996. It was well behind the pace for fewest points in a game - 39, against Mississippi College in 1965.

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To their credit, the Trojans (10-10, 3-5 Sun Belt) played hard in the second half. In fact, they got the deficit under 20 points with less than nine minutes remaining. But it was a hole too deep to escape.

&uot;We just didn't play well,&uot; head coach Don Maestri said. &uot;We haven't shot the ball well. In the first half Wednesday we were 6 for 38 - 15 percent. We were 3 for 21 on three-pointers. We're just in a stretch where we're not playing good ball.&uot;

Three straight road games in the Sun Belt Conference will do that.

&uot;As much as I've love to work their fannies off today, I think that would about break them,&uot; Maestri said. &uot;We're very tired physically. Now, we don't talk about that because I don't want to give them an excuse to not play well. But the reality is we're fatigued.&uot;

The Trojans have played six of their eight league games on the road. They are 1-5. But the second half of the league season is almost exclusively at Trojan Arena, which has been a fortress for Troy.

The Trojans took a lot of momentum into that road swing, buoyed by a sweep of Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee.

But that momentum couldn't be packed into suitcases.

The Trojans finally return home Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. for a Sun Belt game against Arkansas-Little Rock, which is also nicknamed the Trojans. UALR was 11-8 overall, 4-3 in the Sun Belt before last night's game at South Alabama.

&uot;This team is the most hard-nosed defensive team in the league,&uot; Maestri said of UALR. &uot;They play good man-to-man defense. They put a lot of pressure on you. They're very physical.&uot;

And they are huge. Rashad Jones-Jennings is a 6-8, 235-pound player who leads Little Rock in scoring (12.6 ppg) and rebounding (11.9 rpg). Lekheythan Malone is a 6-6, 200-pounder averaging almost 11 points per game. And Byron Ray is 6-7, 250. Sixth man Brandon Nichols is 6-3, 230.

&uot;They're big men can move, too,&uot; Maestri said. &uot;This is a tough, physical opponent. They lost by 5 (72-67) at Michigan State and beat Bowling Green, which beat us here.&uot;

Maestri said UALR's guards are both 6-2. Zack Wright is a &uot;slasher&uot; who penetrates and dishes. Elijah Muldrow is a three-point threat.

That's plenty to prepare for. But Maestri said the Trojans need to get some momentum going to reverse the slide.

&uot;We're going to be in a game Saturday that's going to be one of those grind-it-out games,&uot; Maestri said. &uot;Little Rock does a good job controlling tempo. They don't want an up-and-down game. We just need to shoot better. Hopefully, being at home makes a difference.&uot;

Home is a good place to start. Only seven games remain in the regular season. Six of those will be at Trojan Arena - including the next four.

Saturday's game is the second game of a doubleheader.

The Troy women play Arkansas State at 5:15 p.m., followed by the Troy vs. UALR men's game.