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Trojans defeat USA in OT

Troy picked up a 73-66 overtime win over South Alabama Saturday night, giving the Trojans consecutive victories for the first time since Jan. 2.

The game was almost a mirror image of most Troy games this season, as USA opened the first half with a barrage of 3-pointers and Troy hit 81 percent of its free throws.

The free throw secret may have been Troy’s switch from a 3-point contest in morning shootaround to a free throw contest.

“I told them it was ridiculous,” said Troy head coach Don Maestri. “Instead of having a 3-point contest, I told them to do something meaningful. So, they started doing the free throws, and it was a good thing for them.”

Troy wound up hitting 17 of its 21 foul shots, while USA hit just six of 14.

“The thing we did tonight that we haven’t done in a while is we knocked down our free throws at the end of the game,” Maestri said. “In the last three minutes when you’re being fouled, you have to finish the game and you do that when you make key free throws. I think tonight will make them realize the real importance of free throws.”

The Trojans came in dead last in the Sun Belt in free throw shooting percentage in conference games, something Maestri told his team at shootaround Saturday.

“Coach told us we were dead last in free throw shooting, and we kind of took that to heart,” said senior Yamene Coleman, who was 6-6 from the line. “You don’t want to be last in anything.”

Troy trailed 30-21 at halftime, but slowly chipped away at the Jaguars’ lead, eventually taking the lead at 39-38 with 10:24 left to play.

The two teams traded baskets for the rest of the second half until USA was able to get a three-point lead with 2:12 left to play.

On Troy’s ensuing possession, however, senior Richard Delk drove to the rim for a lay-up, and was fouled in the process. Delk knocked down the extra free throw to tie the game at 57 with 1:51 left in regulation.

Troy had a chance to win the game at the buzzer, but senior guard Michael Vogler had his lay-up attempt swatted away by USA’s Javier Carter, sending the game into overtime.

In the extra session, Carter converted a lay-up to put the Jaguars up 59-57 early on, but USA would not lead for long.

Delk converted another lay-up on Troy’s next possession before Vogler got in the lane himself a minute later to put Troy up for good at 61-59.

Coleman then took over for Troy, hitting a key jumper and all four of his free throw attempts in overtime.

“I just go up and shoot it,” Coleman said. “I don’t worry and I don’t stress out.”

Troy looked stressed out in the first half, shooting just 29.6 percent from the field and 25 percent from the 3-point line.

The Jaguars, meanwhile, shot 42.3 percent overall and hit seven of their 14 3-point attempts in the opening half.

“The game started off in a way where I didn’t think we were executing very well,” Maestri said. “We weren’t shooting well, and we weren’t as focused defensively as I thought we would be.”

The Trojans eventually turned things around, something junior guard Vernon Taylor said the Jaguars had coming due to the previous loss to USA back on Jan. 16.

“They kind of stole one from us, so we knew we had to get this one,” Taylor said.