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Troy looks to end road trip on high note

After not playing a home game since Nov. 16, the Troy Trojans will wrap up an eight-game road trip over the next three days with games against Marshall and Houston.

“This is the end of that road trip, and I’m sure glad it is,” said head coach Don Maestri. “We finish this thing up with a couple of teams that play well, and both of them are really tough. Conference USA is a very strong conference, and both Houston and Marshall fit right in.”

The Trojans will take on the Thundering Herd today, and will then wrap up the road trip in Texas against Houston.

Part of the challenge of the final two games of the road trip will be having to play Saturday night in West Virginia before flying to Texas for a Monday night game.

Still, Maestri said the team is not going to use extensive travel as an excuse for poor play.

“We don’t like to dwell on stuff like travel,” Maestri said. “If you give yourself an excuse for not playing well, then you’ll use it. This is just one of those things that if we learn to deal with it now, it will help us down the road.”

Troy comes into today’s game riding a wave of momentum after last week’s 81-77 win over Auburn on Dec. 4.

That win, coupled with the ending of fall semester classes, has helped the Trojans to focus more on the task at hand.

“That win over Auburn really gave us a shot of confidence in the arm,” Maestri said. “I also feel like we’ve practiced pretty well. Exams are over now, so we’ve been able to focus on all basketball.”

In the win over Auburn, Troy shot 53.7 percent from the field, including a blistering 52 percent from 3-point range. Senior guard Brandon Hazzard was especially hot, scoring 28 points on 9-14 shooting, including 7-10 from 3-point territory.

The hot shooting is something the Trojans would like to continue, and Maestri said they will try to spark the outside shooting by playing a faster style of game.

“We’re hoping to get the game going pretty fast,” Maestri said. “Both teams like to play up-tempo, and we feel like that should help our shooting. We shoot the ball better when we play up-tempo, and everybody knows our shooting is key to our success.”

Troy will also be helped by the addition of six-foot three sophomore guard and Dothan native Steven Cunningham.

Cunningham had to sit out the fall semester to fulfill transfer requirements, but with final exams now being over, he is eligible to play as soon as today against Marshall.

While coaches know they have an additional weapon in Cunningham, there are no concrete plans for his debut.

“It really depends on how the game goes,” Maestri said. “We don’t really pre-plan as far as substitutions go. We’re going in against a team that is 6-1 and we’re just looking for a chance to win, so pretty much whoever is playing well will be playing the longest.”

While the Trojans must first worry about Marshall, they will also have to face Houston Monday.

Luckily for Troy, the two teams have many similarities, which helps to give the Trojans a better idea of what to expect.

“They both play similar styles with great outside shooters and very athletic players,” Maestri said. “They also both play a very aggressive man-to-man defense.”

Even though Troy would obviously love to win both games, Maestri said how the team finishes the eight-game road stretch will say a lot about its character going forward.

“If we can compete with these two teams or even win one of the two, then we’ll feel like we’ve accomplished something,” Maestri said.

Troy and Marshall tip off today in Huntington, W. Va., at 6 p.m. before traveling to Houston to take on the Cougars Monday at 7 p.m.