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Troy looks to bounce back against ULM

The Troy Trojans will hit the hardwood today in their return to conference play, and their first road conference game of the season.

Standing between Troy and a 2-0 Sun Belt record are the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks. ULM is currently 5-8 on the young season, but returns many players from a team that took Troy down to the wire last season.

The Warhawks have been helped by the return of senior guard Tony Hooper. Hooper is averaging 12.8 points per game and is shooting 43.5 percent from behind the 3-point line.

Hooper led ULM in scoring for the 2007-08 season, but played in just four games last season due to injuries.

“They get back Hooper, who didn’t play last year, but he was their leading scorer the season before that,” said Troy head coach Don Maestri. “So, they have a group back that we had a real tough time with, and now you add to that Hooper, who is an excellent outside shooter.”

While ULM has struggled to a 5-8 record, they still rank statistically as one of the better teams in the Sun Belt, especially offensively.

The Warhawks are fourth in the conference in both scoring offense and field goal percentage and are in a tie with Troy for second in the Sun Belt in 3-point shooting percentage.

“They’re just a very good team in a league that this so balanced this year,” Maestri said. “The parity in the league is probably the best I’ve seen since we joined the Sun Belt. There’s not a team in this conference that can just dominate another team, and I think that will be prevalent throughout the season.”

Troy comes into the game at 6-6, and will be looking to rebound from a tough 78-75 home loss to Marshall Monday night.

“One of the bigger challenges about this game is seeing how we respond to that loss to Marshall,” Maestri said. “That was a game that easily could have been a victory if a couple of things had gone differently.”

Despite a potential hangover effect, Maestri said the team practiced in such a way that it looks as if they will be ready for tonight’s game.

“We practiced Tuesday and then again Wednesday morning before we left for Monroe,” Maestri said. “Wednesday’s practice especially, showed some things to me. There were no sleepy eyes.

“The guys came ready to practice and they really went at the drills with a lot of intensity. I was very pleased with the practices as a whole.”

Troy and ULM tip off today in Monroe, La., at 2 p.m.