Hot shooting Troy wins two in a row, Taylor honored

Published 9:09 pm Monday, January 17, 2011

Last week was one filled with a homecoming, unexpected change and celebration for the Troy Trojans men’s basketball team.

After returning to Troy from yet another multiple game road trip, Troy reacted to the home court and fans with two huge wins against Sun Belt competition, beating Western Kentucky on Thursday and then upsetting the defending conference champion in North Texas Saturday night.

The victories were the first in Sun Belt play for the Trojans, who are now 2-3, and 4-13 overall.

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It was also the first time this season Troy had won consecutive games and the first time since last March when the team competed in the conference tournament in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Before Saturday’s game, the team had a special visitor come in to talk to them.

With the North Texas game being televised on CSS, one of the commentators was former Wake Forrest and South Carolina coach, Dave Odom.

It was out of his talk with the team Friday, that the team understood what it had to do in order to be one of the best in the conference, according to head coach Don Maestri.

“He told them it’s not how you start the season, but how you finish,” Maestri said.

“Well, we took that little mantra differently and it was that it wasn’t how we were going to finish (Saturday), but how we were going to start. “When you are playing a team as good as North Texas, who had beaten LSU by 20 at LSU and who beat Texas Tech, you are not just playing a regular team. You are playing a very good basketball team. So, we took his little saying and said to ourselves how we are going to start in the first half and how we finish in the second half.

“Everything that we needed to do to win a big game, we did,” Maestri added. “I’m so proud of our guys.”

While Troy has had its fair share of shooting struggles this season, that was not the case in the last two games, or at least in the last 60 minutes.

In the first half against Western Kentucky, Troy shot just 25 percent from the floor, and 18.2 percent from the 3-point line.

However, in the following three halves, the Trojans have combined to shot 59 percent, and have made 43 percent of their 3-point attempts, outscoring its opponents 123-101.

A big part of the offensive contribution has come from senior guard Travis Lee.

Entering the Western Kentucky game, Lee was suffering through a 1-18 slump from behind the arc.

The guard has a new streak going, as Lee has hit seven of his last nine 3-point attempts.

Along with Lee, Vernon Taylor, who is the team’s leading scorer, also had a big week.

In the two games, Taylor averaged 21 points per game, along with seven rebounds per game.

He shot 46 percent from the floor, and also hit 50 percent of his 3-pointers.

Those numbers were good enough to help Taylor win the conference’s Player of the Week honors Monday, making him the second Trojan to do so in as many weeks.

Will Weathers was awarded the honor last week.

Troy will be in action again on Wednesday, as the team will look to keep its winning streak alive as it plays Middle Tennessee in Murfreesboro, Tenn.