Troy basketball wins exhibition game

Published 11:57 am Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It wasn’t the prettiest or most impressive performance from the Troy men’s basketball team in its exhibition game against West Alabama Monday night, but it was a winning one.

Troy pulled out some late heroics to pick up the 99-93 win.

The Trojans struggled to stop the visiting Tigers on offense all night long, and even trailed by five with 2:35 remaining in regulation.

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However, in a performance that was reminiscent of some of Troy’s big wins from last February, Brandon Hazzard was there at the end to knock down a clutch jumper with 22 seconds left to go that tied the game at 86 and sent it into overtime.

“Hazzard, who was having a really sub par basketball game, made some mighty big shots in the stretch when it was really, really meaningful to our basketball team,” said Troy head coach Don Maestri.

One of the players that consistently gave Troy trouble was Tiger big man and Troy native Jason Swanson. Swanson had 23 points and nine rebounds for the game.

The Trojans trailed 89-88 early in the extra session, but reserve big man Bernard Toombs put Troy up for good when he took a Vernon Taylor pass and converted an attempt close to the basket, all the while being fouled in the process.

Toombs had played just two first half minutes before entering the game late in the second half, but had two key rebounds, four points and a big time block in the last six minutes of the game.

Toombs’ block in overtime brought the crowd of 2,641 to its feet as one.

“When he came in, I knew I had to go get it, no matter what,” Toombs said. “It’s my lane. It’s not easy having to face a big man.”

The crowd played a large factor in the game, erupting several times as Troy made the key plays necessary to win the game.

“That was the largest crowd I think we’ve ever had for an exhibition game,” Maestri said. “They helped us win the game. They made as much noise tonight as they would if we were playing Western Kentucky. They really made a major difference in the last five minutes and in overtime.”

One of the reasons for Troy’s struggles may have been the absence of preseason all-Sun Belt selection Richard Delk. Delk injured his ankle roughly seven minutes into the game, and was unable to play significant minutes from that point on.

“He’ll be fine,” Maestri said. “It wasn’t worth plying him some more, and risking it becoming a more serious injury than it already was.”

Senior guard Michael Vogler fouled out with roughly four minutes left, leaving Hazzard as the lone starting guard still on the floor.

“It was up to me to run the team and keep poise when things weren’t going our way,” Hazzard said.

West Alabama was helped by its sharp 3-point shooting. The Tigers shot 53.8 percent from 3-point land for the game.

Maestri said Troy’s defensive effort left something to be desired because of adjustments Troy had to make to West Alabama’s slow-paced offense.

“I though they did a good job of trying to shorten the game by being very patient on offense when we were in the zone,” Maestri said. “It kind of got our guys a little antsy because we like to play fast. We had to switch to man-to-man, which is not our favorite defense.”

Hazzard and Vogler each scored 20 to lead Troy. Levan Patsatsia had a double-double in his Troy debut, scoring 12 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.

Despite the close nature of the game, Maestri said the experience would be good for Troy as it moves forward.

“The positive is that the game was a close game and that you do get behind, and you have to make a comeback, and then you have to win in overtime without two of your best players,” Maestri said. “Those learning experience I thought were very good for our basketball team.”

However, it was Hazzard who summed it up best.

“It’s a wakeup call for us, and tomorrow morning at 6:45, we’ve got to get back to work,” Hazzard said.

Troy is back in action when it opens the regular season Saturday against Piedmont at 1 p.m.