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Troy teams look to take care of Denver

Troy will look to start 2010 on the right foot today when the Trojans return home to take on Sun Belt foe Denver.

The two teams met last year on Jan. 31 when Troy escaped with a 76-72 win in overtime.

This year’s game should be another close affair, as Denver returns all of its players from a year ago.

“Denver is another team we’ll play this year where there really aren’t any surprises waiting for us,” said Troy head coach Don Maestri. “They have the entire team back from a year ago, and that is a team that’s won a lot of big games.”

Denver provides a unique challenge for Troy thanks largely in part to its offensive system, the Princeton offense.

The Pioneers have been extremely efficient in their offensive sets, as Denver ranks first in the Sun Belt in field goal percentage, 3-point field goal percentage, assists and assist-to-turnover ratio.

“One thing about guarding Denver is they have such good shooters,” Maestri said. “You just have to hope that they aren’t hot when you play them.”

One such sharp shooter for Denver is senior guard Nate Rohnert. Rohnert leads Denver in scoring at 16.3 points per game, which is good enough to rank him fifth in the Sun Belt in points per game. Rohnert also ranks seventh in shooting percentage, as he is shooting 55 percent from the field thus far this season.

Denver’s ability to pass the basketball well is something Maestri said he both envies and admires about the Pioneer team.

“They really know how to play the game,” Maestri said.

“They have a coach that teaches the game a way that I kind of wish it was still played since I’m so old-school. They have a lot of excellent passing, and you can really tell they have put work into that.”

Since Denver is so efficient on offense, Maestri said the key to the game will be matching their offensive effort rather than worrying about shutting down the Pioneer offense with superior defense.

“This is a game where we have to play well on offense,” Maestri said.

“We can’t bank on them having a bad night or not shooting well, or on our defense shutting them down. We’ve got to bank on being able to score on them. How well we shoot and execute our offense will a tell a lot about how we fare.”

Also facing Troy is the challenge of playing its third game in less than week.

“This will be our third game this week, so I just hope we were smart enough to get some rest on the bus ride back from Monroe so we could get our legs up under us,” Maestri said.

Troy and Denver tip off tonight at 7:30 p.m. The women’s game between Troy and Denver will precede the men’s game at 5:15 p.m.