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Trojan holiday

With most people taking a break from work and school for the Christmas holidays, the Troy men’s basketball team is no different.

The Trojans last played on Dec. 17 in their conference opener against New Orleans, and

will not play again until Dec. 28 when they return home to take on Marshall.

The players have been able to use this break to recuperate after a challenging start.

“For the players, this is a nice mental break, and I think it’s something they need at this point,” Maestri said. “Normally, you don’t take a break this long in college basketball, but with our schedule being the way it has been, it’s probably good for our guys.”

That schedule featured games against three Conference USA teams, two SEC teams, a Horizon League foe and a Sun Belt opener against New Orleans.

“We’ve played some tough competition this year,” Maestri said. “We played Florida, which is ranked in the top 25, as well as UAB and Marshall, who both could wind up ranked in the top 25 soon. Playing this kind of schedule has really given us a chance to evaluate ourselves against some of the top competition in the country.”

While the players are using the break for rest, the coaches remain hard at work.

“For the coaching staff, this break really gives us a chance to evaluate our team and assess exactly what we need to do as the season gets ready to go forward,” said head coach Don Maestri.

Some of those evaluations have been easy for the coaching staff to make.

“We really need to get our main offense playing at a higher level,” Maestri said. “We also need to work much harder at rebounding the basketball. We just haven’t been blocking out the way we need to.”

Another problem has been Troy’s shooting woes. While the team’s shooting percentage and scoring average is up from last year, Troy’s two top scorers’ shooting percentages are both down.

“We’re not shooting the ball real well, either,” Maestri said. “I don’t really know why that is. We’ll be putting in a lot more shooting drills right after the new year to try and get us shooting better.”

Senior guard Brandon Hazzard is shooting 42 percent, down from last year’s 47.9 percent. Richard Delk, meanwhile, is shooting 47.9 percent, down from 48.6 percent last season.

“We’ve really been up and down all year long,” Maestri said. We just haven’t developed the consistency that we need to have at this point. Hopefully, that will come as we begin league play and play into 2010. We just haven’t had everybody on the same page except for maybe twice this season, and those two games were against Valparaiso and Auburn.”

How quickly the Trojans are able to develop that consistency will probably be the determining factor in how far Troy can rise in the Sun Belt standings this season.

“It’s hard to tell if we can really compete at this point,” Maestri said. “I don’t know if the consistency can reach that level to where we can be considered part of that upper echelon. Out of the top eight guys, we’ve got to have five to seven guys playing really well every time we take the floor. That’s just a major question mark right now, and we really won’t know the answer to those questions until we get a little bit deeper into league play.”

Troy returns to action Dec. 28 at 7 p.m. against Marshall at home.