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Trojans play host to FIU, Thomas

The Troy Trojans will welcome Florida International and, for the first time ever, basketball Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas to Troy tonight when the Golden Panthers invade Trojan Arena.

Thomas, in his first year at FIU, has led the team to a 4-10 Sun Belt record and an overall record of 7-20.

The two teams have already met once this season, back on Jan. 9 in Miami, when the Trojans defeated FIU 84-68.

Troy never trailed in that game and led by as many as 22 points, but head coach Don Maestri said FIU is still a formidable opponent.

“Like most teams in this league, they can beat anybody when they play really well,” Maestri said. “They beat North Texas at North Texas, so that shows you how good they are capable of being. They’re an athletic, hard-nosed bunch of guys, and it’ll be a hard-fought, tough game.”

Troy comes into the game on a bit of a down note after falling in its last game to Western Kentucky 87-69 Feb. 6.

The Trojans did not have a midweek game this week, giving them a full week of practice to prepare for FIU.

Maestri, however, said the time off is not always a positive thing.

“I’ve really seen it go both ways,” Maestri said. “Sometimes you come in rested and ready to jump put the gym, and other times you come in and your timing’s off, so there’s really no way to predict how the time off will affect us.”

The major point of focus for Troy will be shooting, as it always is.

“Obviously, shooting the ball well is such a major part of our game, so if we don’t shoot well, we struggle,” Maestri said. “Hopefully, we’ll see some better results. We’ve done a tremendous amount of shooting drills, but that doesn’t always translate into success.”

Fortunately for Troy, the Trojans appear to have the advantage on paper, at least.

Troy comes in first in the Sun Belt in scoring at 76.9 points per game, second in field goal percentage at 48.2 percent and third in 3-point percentage at 38.4 percent.

FIU’s defense, however, has struggled all season long.

The Golden Panthers are dead last in the conference in points per game allowed, scoring margin and field goal percentage defense.

However, FIU is third in the Sun Belt in offensive rebounding, something Maestri said the Trojans must work to limit.

“We absolutely cannot give them second shots,” Maestri said.

“That’s really important. If they happen to miss, hopefully we can do a good job of securing the rebounds.”

A win for Troy would improve its record to 9-5 in Sun Belt play with four games left to go, meaning a first-round bye in the Sun Belt tournament, or perhaps even a regular season title are not out of the question.

However, Maestri said the Trojans have decided to stop looking at the standings.

“We’ve just been so inconsistent this season that we have completely taken our minds off the standings,” Maestri said.

“Anytime we look like we’re putting ourselves in a good position and starting to get things going, we stub our toe. So, the best approach for us right now is to just concentrate on the team we are playing. We can’t worry about any other teams.”

Troy and FIU tip off tonight at Trojan Arena at 7 p.m.