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Troy plays host to North Texas in conference showdown

After starting conference play with a 4-1 record, Troy will face one of its stiffest tests yet in Sun Belt play when it takes on North Texas tonight at Trojan Arena.

The Mean Green were the preseason pick to win the Sun Belt’s western division, but come into tonight’s game with just a 3-3 record in Sun Belt play.

“I think they’ve just had some struggles because they’re in the Sun Belt, and it seems like everybody in the league is having an up and down year, and that includes us,” said Troy head coach Don Maestri. “We’ve got four starters back, and we haven’t played anywhere close to the level of consistency that we played with last season.”

North Texas has also had to deal with a rash of injuries, with the most recent case being that of Eric Tramiel. Tramiel has averaged 11.2 points and 4.9 rebounds in 11 games this year, but is unlikely to play tonight against Troy.

“Now, they do have some injuries that have really hurt them, and you can see how much it has affected them,” Maestri said. “Despite all that, they’re still a very, very good team.”

Troy, however, will counter with a prolific offense of its own. The Trojans are the top scoring team in the Sun Belt at 80.5 points per game, and senior guard Brandon Hazzard leads the conference in scoring with 19 points per game.

Both offenses could be in for big nights, as North Texas and Troy rank seventh and 12th in the conference, respectively, in scoring defense. Junior guard Tristan Thompson also gives the Mean Green a 3-point shooting threat. Thompson ranks in the top 10 in the conference in both 3-pointers made per game and 3-point field goal percentage.

“They’re so balanced that we couldn’t really key on one or two guys,” Maestri said. “For us offensively, we have to be a little concerned because they are just so solid in their man-to-man defense.”

Troy and North Texas tip off tonight at 7 p.m. within the confines of Trojan Arena.