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Trojans look to stay hot in Sun Belt play

Following a win over Western Kentucky that vaulted Troy to a tie atop the Sun Belt’s Eastern Division, the Trojans must now travel to Lafayette, La., for a game against ULL’s Ragin’ Cajuns.

While ULL comes in at just 7-11 overall, it is 4-3 in the conference, and head coach Don Maestri said the Cajuns are dangerous thanks to their combination of athleticism and experience.

“I’ll tell you this right now – ULL is probably the most athletic team in the league,” Maestri said. “They’ve got some guys there that it seems like have been playing since before the Dead Sea got sick. They’ve got a whole lot of experience on that team.”

Senior forward Tyren Johnson is the undisputed leader of the Cajuns, as he ranks in the top five in the Sun Belt in three different statistical categories.

Johnson is fifth in the conference in scoring at 15.8 points per game, but is also second in rebounds with 8.3 per contest and third in blocks with 1.6 swats per game.

Johnson’s intimidating defensive presence has helped ULL to become a solid defensive team that ranks third in the conference in field goal percentage defense. The Cajuns have allowed opponents to shoot just 42,8 percent from the floor this season.

Troy will counter ULL’s defense with the Sun Belt’s top offensive attack.

The Trojans average 79.2 points per game, the most in the conference, and are led by senior Brandon Hazzard, who leads the conference in scoring at 18.3 points per game.

Senior center Yamene Coleman will be tasked with containing ULL’s Johnson for most of the game, yet Coleman has proven himself to be no slouch this season.

Coleman scored 14 points in Troy’s win over WKU Thursday, all in the second half. On the season, he ranks third in the conference in rebounding with 7.9 rebounds per game and third in field goal percentage at 59.4 percent.

Troy may have an opportunity to take advantage of the Cajuns on the glass, despite Johnson’s effective rebounding skills.

The Trojans are fourth in the conference in rebounding margin at plus-2.1, while ULL is 12th out of 13 teams in that same category, with a margin of minus-four rebounds per game.

While Troy may hold an apparent advantage on the boards, Maestri said the key to today’s game will be avoiding a letdown from Thursday’s high-intensity tilt with WKU.

“We have to put that win behind us,” Maestri said. “It was a great win, obviously because it puts us in a good position as far as first place goes, but we can’t spend too much time celebrating that win.”

Another key for Troy will be its ability to play on short rest. The Trojans are ailing a bit, as senior guard Michael Vogler recently suffered from a stomach illness and Coleman suffered a sprained ankle in practice.

“Hopefully, we’ve got a little bit of confidence going down there,” Maestri said.

“The thing we really need to do is get rested before that game. Vogler played almost the whole 40 minutes the other night and he’s still getting over a little stomach bug he had. Coleman sprained his ankle a little bit in practice before the WKU game, so we have to use what time we have to rest. There’s really no time for anything else.”

Troy and ULL tip off tonight in Lafayette, La., at 7:05 p.m.