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Trojan twilight

OXFORD, Miss. – Troy was out-rebounded by 15 boards and Ole Miss scored 26 second chance points to defeat the Trojans 84-65 in the first round of the 2010 National Invitation Tournament.

The loss ended the Troy careers from five seniors as the Trojans finished the 2009-10 season with a record of 20-13. The loss dropped Troy to 0-2 all-time in the NIT, the Trojans lost to Niagara in 2004.

“Ole Miss did a great job on the offensive boards,” Troy head coach Don Maestri said. “They are a talented team. They keep their focus. I’d like to see them really play well in the next game and maybe go a little further.”

Troy held an 11-10 lead at the first media timeout and the two teams continued the even battle with the Trojans holding a one-point advantage with 11:18 on the first half clock.

Ole Miss took its largest lead to that point with a 30-25 advantage with less than six minutes to go. The Rebels stretched their lead to 12 with a 12-0 run that was capped by a put-back by Terrico White.

“It was 25 to 25 and we didn’t score a single point for the next six minutes,” Maestri said. “I don’t think you can beat a good team like Ole Miss if you stop scoring. The way we play, since we like to play the zone a lot, if you stop scoring you lose your defensive intensity.

“If you do that against a good team like Ole Miss, they are going to crash the boards and eat you alive. We have to play good defense to score.”

The Trojans trailed 40-30 with 1:12 left in the first half, but Ole Miss scored five straight and took a 45-30 halftime lead.

Troy tallied just 16 rebounds in the first half, compared to 26 for Ole Miss – including 10 offensive boards. The Rebels turned those into a 17-4 advantage in second chance points.

The second half started with much of the same story as the Trojans slipped and the Rebels completed an 11-5 run. Two free throws by Michael Vogler made it 57-38 in favor of the Rebels with 14 minutes left.

Troy closed to within 12 points, but a turnover killed the Trojans’ chance to make it a 10-point game and Ole Miss answered with back-to-back treys to end the threat.

Hazzard finished with 22 points to lead Troy – his 24th 20-plus scoring game of his career. Vogler joined him in double-figures with 16 to go with five rebounds and five assists. White led Ole Miss with 27.

The five seniors led Troy to the winningest two-year period in Troy’s Sun Belt history and its first-ever regular season league crown.

The Trojans won 27 games in league play over the two-year span and led Troy to consecutive postseason appearances for just the second time in the school’s Division I history.

“We got a lot of mileage out of this group of kids,” Maestri said. “They won a conference championship. They’ve got a diamond ring coming and they’re going to hang two banners in our gym. They are hanging banners in that arena we have – that’s a credit to the five seniors on our basketball team.”