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Trojans take down Denver

Junior Brandon Hazzard pushed Troy’s winning streak to six games as he completed a second half comeback and sealed the win in overtime from the foul line as Troy defeated Denver 76-72 in Sun Belt action at Trojan Arena.

Hazzard tied the game after a DU turnover on a lay-up down the middle, but missed his chance to give Troy a lead with the game at 65-65 with still more than a minute remaining.

The junior from Atlanta gave Troy (13-10, 8-3 SBC) the lead on a step-back jumper at the foul line with 15.5 seconds left in the game. The bucket would be negated with Rob Lewis hitting a turn-around jumper in the paint with less than a second on the clock to force overtime.

Denver (9-12, 4-6 SBC) jumped out to a 70-67 lead in overtime behind three Nate Rohnert free throws. Richard Delk got two on a fast break and Hazzard nailed a three to give Troy a two-point lead with 1:30 to go.

Delk was called for an offensive foul giving DU back the ball, but Josh Williams playing in relief of the fouled out Michael Vogler made a big steal and drew an intentional foul. After the senior split the free throws, Troy got the ball back.

Denver fouled Kenny Ware after the inbounds play and he hit 1-of-2. Rohnert quickly got two points for the Pioneers, leaving Troy in the lead by two with 21.1 seconds on the clock and possession.

Hazzard hit two from the line to make it a two possession game and after a Rohnert miss DU sent Ware to the line again. Nigel Peter-Denman missed a desperation attempt to seal the victory. The free throws capped a career-night for Hazzard as he finished with 28 points in a career-best 42 minutes.

“I have to give a lot of credit to the players on this team. Denver plays a totally different style and they try to unnerve you. I knew that could potentially frustrate our team to play this kind of game. They played through it and really showed the discipline you have to have on offense to not take the quick shot. I really thought it was impressive for us to do that,” head coach Don Maestri said.

Maestri was specifically impressed with the play of two individuals late in the game.

“Brandon [Hazzard] hit another big shot. He hit that three to put us up by two when we were down a point and it really put the pressure on Denver. Then Josh [Williams] came in and did a phenomenal job on defense. He made some of the biggest plays in the game. Then when Vogler went out to fouls, he ran the offense. He did a great job for us tonight.”

Williams played a career-high 31 minutes and tallied a career-best five steals. He also scored eight points and snatched five boards.

The Troy win also continued Denver’s road woes, marking their 41st consecutive loss on the road. The victory also keeps Troy in a tie with Middle Tennessee for second place in the SBC East division.

Denver opened up the game with a 5-0 run, but Hazzard hit his first 3-pointer and after back-to-back buckets by the Pioneers Tom Jervis got a tip to go leaving the score 9-5 in favor of the visitor with five minutes gone by in the opening half.

DU connected treys on three straight possessions to stretch their lead out to 18-7.

Trailing 22-9, Travis Lee hit a three in transition and following an offensive foul on the Pioneers Delk got a thunderous dunk in the traffic for a 5-0 Troy run. Williams split a pair of free throws and Delk got a lay-up to go to cut the deficit to 31-22 with two minutes left in the first half.

Vogler was able to get an offensive rebound and put it back in for two points as time expired at the end of the first half to leave the Trojans trailing 31-24 at the midway point.

Denver hit 6-of-15 three-pointers, compared the Trojans hitting just 2-of-10. 24 points in the first half ties a season-low for Troy. The team also scored just 24 in the first half against Middle Tennessee on December 11.

Troy started the second half on an 11-5 run, but Denver halted the run with a Rohnert three from the top of the key. Hazzard picked up two on a dribble drive, but Lewis answered with two in the paint leaving the DU lead at 44-37 with 14:25 to go in the game.

Vogler hit 1-of-2 free throws to trim the lead down to just three points at 46-43 and Delk got two down low to make it just a one point deficit with 10:40 left.

The Trojans had a chance to take the lead, but missed and Denver got a five straight points to stretch the lead back to 51-45. Williams hit two free throws to make it a six-point game, but Denver answered with an Andrew Hooper 3-pointer stretching the lead to nine again.

Troy got it down to five after forcing a turnover, but Denver was able to get the ball to Rohnert after breaking the press for an easy two.

Troy forced another steal and Vogler laid it in for a three-point play, 65-63 with just more than three minutes remaining.

Delk was the only other Trojan in double-figures with 19 points. Jervis led the way on the glass with seven rebounds and six points. Troy out-rebounded Denver 32-28.

Troy is in action next on Thursday when they host Arkansas State at 7 p.m at Trojan Arena.