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Troy looks to get back on track on the road

Following a tough loss to North Texas Thursday, the Troy Trojans will look to regroup tonight in Mobile against in-state rival South Alabama.

“Anytime you have a rivalry, the intensity level for both teams rises, but the thing we have to do at this point is focus on coming back from the game against North Texas,” said Troy head coach Don Maestri. “The question to answer will be whether or not we can come back.”

The meeting between the two schools will be the first since South Alabama eliminated Troy from the Sun Belt Conference Tournament last season. Troy had taken the two previous contests last season, but watched its NCAA Tournament hopes end at the hands of the Jaguars.

“It’s going to be an intense basketball game,” Maestri said. “This has developed into a rivalry over the past couple of years that it wasn’t in previous years because we just didn’t win enough. But, with us taking the first two games last year, it kind of fired them up a little bit for that conference tournament game.”

It’s a new season, however, one in which both the Trojans and Jaguars have already seen their shares of ups and downs.

Troy is 4-2 in Sun Belt play, while South Alabama comes in at 3-3.

The Jaguars are led by junior guard Tim Williams. Williams is averaging 14.8 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game, which is good enough to place him ninth and fifth, respectively, in those categories.

USA has also developed a reputation as a stingy defensive team. The Jaguars have allowed their opponents to shoot just 39.9 percent from the floor, which is the lowest such percentage in the conference.

The Jaguars have also allowed opponents to shoot just 30.1 percent from beyond the 3-point arc, which places them second in the conference.

In addition to USA’s defensive prowess, Maestri said he expects the Jaguars to use their offense as a defensive tool against the Trojans.

“The teams that have played us this year have tried to be more conservative against us,” Maestri said. “North Texas, for example, is a fast break team, and they were content to just set it up in the half court and make us play defense for a long time. I’m not so sure South Alabama won’t do the same thing, so we just have got to have patience.”

In that game against North Texas Thursday night, all-conference guards Brandon Hazzard and Richard Delk shot just 9-24 from the field.

Troy also struggled from the 3-point line, hitting just five of 19 attempts.

“Our top players just did not shoot the ball well,” Maestri said.

“We have to be able to shoot a higher percentage than we did the other night. If you’re shooting poorly, you’re going to have a tough time winning in this league. Also, for some reason, we have been turning the ball over too much. We really don’t have much margin for error, so we just have to play good basketball.”

Troy will try to get back to playing good basketball tonight when it takes on South Alabama in Mobile at 7:05 p.m.