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King of the hill

The Troy Trojans used a big push in the last 10 minutes to defeat Western Kentucky 77-69 Thursday night.

Troy trailed 54-48 with 11:22 left to play before going on a 17-3 run that lasted from the 11:13 mark to the 4:26 mark, a run that took place with Brandon Hazzard on the bench for most of that stretch.

“It was kind of my casino theory,” sad Troy head coach Don Maestri. “Levan Patsatsia and Vernon Taylor were playing so well on defense and creating pressure on them that I couldn’t get Hazzard back in the game. If a quarter at a lost machine is working for you, don’t move to another slot machine. Those two kids were really instrumental.”

During that stretch, WKU was held scoreless for over four minutes before Caden Dickerson converted a lay-up to end the Troy run.

Troy used contributions from the entire roster, as five Trojans scored in double figures. Hazzard led the way with 18 points, while Michael Vogler scored 13 and Yamene Coleman scored 14. Richard Delk scored 14 and Patsatsia scored a career-high 10 points.

“It was probably the best team game we’ve played all year,” Maestri said. “We got more contributions from more players than any game this season.”

The bench outscored WKU’s bench 12-11, and also came up with several key defensive plays.

“We’ve been needing that the whole season,” Delk said. “We haven’t really been getting that the past couple games, but tonight the bench came in and played hard. I think they’re fixing to step up and do some big things here in the near future.”

Coleman did not score until the 13:06 mark in the second half, but was dominant the rest of the way.

“I just needed to settle down and let the game come to me,” Coleman said. “I started focusing on defense and getting some rebounds for my teammates, and just let the rest of it come in behind that.”

Four of Coleman’s points came from the charity stripe, where he was perfect. Coleman had previously missed key free throws in a loss to Marshall earlier this season, but Maestri said he had certainly atoned for that with his performance against WKU.

“Yamene texted everybody after the Marshal game and apologized for missing those free throws,” Maestri said. “He felt like he had lost the game for us. But, I wouldn’t have traded those free throws for tonight’s free throws. This was a big conference game, and those shots spread our lead out and really kept the pressure on them. I told him I was going to text everybody after this game, but I don’t know how to text.”

Troy looked sluggish on defense early on, and trailed 41-35 at the half after allowing WKU to shoot 45.9 percent from the floor before picking up the defense in the second half. “We really came out in the second half and tried to lock what they were doing down,” Delk said. “Coach told us what they were doing at halftime, and we just came out and executed.”

With the win, Troy improves to 5-3 in conference play and moves into a tie for first place atop the crowded Eastern division.

Vogler said after the game the win could be a sign of things to come.

“We just knew if we could come up with a win that it could be a turnaround for our season,” Vogler said. “We just decided to leave everything we had out there on the court.”

Troy will be back in action Saturday on the road against Louisiana-Lafayette.