Troy aims for upset in Arkansas

Published 8:45 pm Friday, December 3, 2010

It was eight years and a day ago when the Troy Trojans traveled to Fayetteville, Ark., and returned home with a huge win.

Now, almost a decade later, the basketball team finds itself in that same position, looking for a big, and much needed, win against the Arkansas Razorbacks.

The Trojans will enter Bud Walton Arena as losers of their last five games, most recently dropping a home contest on Monday to rival UAB.

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But even though Troy lost by 21 points to the Blazers, head coach Don Maestri said the final score was a lot closer then it appeared.

“We had a stretch where we had a hard time hitting any shots and that was really what hurt us.

“The players were very disappointed with that loss, which I think is a good sign. We have some guys that have been a part of a lot of wins over the past couple of seasons and because of that, they expect to do well.”

The Trojans shot just 37 percent from the floor, while UAB shot 50 percent.

The Blazers were also 8-of-14 from beyond the arc in the second half.

Today, Troy will take on its last SEC opponent of the regular season in the Razorbacks, who enter the game with a 4-1 record.

Arkansas’ only loss so far, came in overtime to the hands of UAB in Fayetteville.

“Arkansas has one or two kids that can really shoot the ball much like UAB,” Maestri said.

“When it all comes down to it, we are still learning how to play the game better. If we can play well against Arkansas, and hit open shots I think we are going to have some fun out there.”

Those two kids for the Razorbacks are Rotnei Clark and Delvon Johnson, who are averaging 16.6 and 10 points per game, respectively.

While both games against previous SEC opponents this season, Alabama and Mississippi State, have resulted in losses, the coach said he is seeing a team that is hard working on the court, and unwilling to give up.

“For this team, every experience like this is a positive,” Maestri said about playing SEC teams.

“They are developing as a team, and obviously, there are a ways to go. But each game helps us develop better chemistry, helps us work towards our goals and gives us a better feel for the how we need to play against the top competition.”

The Trojans out rebounded Alabama in Tuscaloosa and dropped an overtime heartbreaker to MSU, despite leading by double-digits throughout the game.

Even though Troy has struggled out of the gate, it has done so with many of its players on the bench due to injuries. According to Maestri, that will hopefully not be the case in a few weeks.

“We are getting glimpses to what we could be, but we are not close to beginning developed because of the injuries we are dealing with right now.

“We are expecting (junior forward) Flynn Clayman back sometime after Christmas and (senior guard) Travis Lee is still not all the way healthy yet. We are hoping that we are cleared of everything heading into the new year,” he said.

One of the main contributors for the Trojans has been senior center Bernard Toombs. In the games against MSU and UAB, Toombs was on the court for 45 minutes and 40 minutes, respectively. In both of those games, the center finished with a double-double in points and rebounds, however, for Arkansas, Maestri said he is going to let his big man get some rest.

“In the past two games, Toombs really played an important part for us,” he said. “I couldn’t take him out of the game because of the things we were doing.

“In both the Mississippi State game and UAB game, we had leads so we had to keep Toombs in. But that is not going to be the case (today). I think he needs some rest and to see on the bench to focus and watch the game.”

Tip off for the Troy/Arkansas game is set for 2 p.m. today.