Troy shoots for four-straight on Senior Night

Published 9:39 pm Friday, February 18, 2011

Twice before this season, the Troy Trojans men’s basketball team had won two-straight games.

The first time around, the team failed to continue the winning streak, however Thursday night, the Trojans met a new fate against the visiting Blue Raiders from Middle Tennessee.

Going into the game, not only was Troy looking to clinch it’s first three game winning streak of the season, but also hoping to exact some revenge for an early double-digit loss to MTSU.

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When it was all said and done, the Trojans were able to accomplish both objectives thanks to a thrilling 69-65 overtime victory.

“We played tough – we stayed strong minded (Thursday night),” senior guard Will Weathers said.

“These last couple of wins, I think we sucked it up when teams would go on (scoring) runs and rode it together. In the games where we were losing, we didn’t have that togetherness. We decided we are not going to let them take this game from us. We wanted to celebrate with our fans – we won for the fans.”

For the third consecutive game, Weathers played every minute, this time around snatching team highs in rebounds, with eight, and points, with 15.

While Weathers’ play was a huge factor in the win, it was senior forward Levan Patsatsia who hit the biggest shot of the game.

With 36 seconds remaining, and Troy holding on to a 66-65 lead, the 6-foot-6 Patsatsia followed up a Steven Cunningham missed shot for a easy put-back to give the Trojans a three-point lead.

The reason why Patsatsia was in the position was because of Bernard Toombs, who was dealing with both an ankle injury and foul trouble.

“We had to step up and contribute any way we could,” said Patsatsia, who finished with 10 points and four rebounds.

“And I think we did that. We played good defense and got some important rebounds when we had to.”

The win improved the Trojans to 6-3 when playing at Sartain Hall this season, and improved its record in overtime games to 2-3 on the season.

“Our fans have stayed with this group,” head coach Don Maestri said. “The pride that our players have played with at home is really amazing.

“If you look at the games we have played at home, we have a lost lot close games late. And yet these guys have come out against North Texas and Western Kentucky and performed unbelievable, turned back around and played two tough teams like Denver and Middle Tennessee. For an entertainment value, the people at Troy have seen some unbelievable games this year.”

Tonight, the Trojans will shoot to entertain the home crowd one more time, as the team tries to even their Sun Belt record at 7-7, against another tough conference opponent – Arkansas State.

The Redwolves enter the matchup with a 14-14 overall record and 8-5 in conference play, which is just a game out of first place in the Western Division.

In the all-time series, Troy leads Arkansas State, 5-1, and is 2-0 in game played at Sartain Hall.

The only loss came back in Feb. of 2006, in Jonesboro.

There is some significant history on the Redwolves bench however, as two of the team’s coaches have taken teams to the Final Four.

Head coach John Brady did it with LSU back in 1994 while first year assistant, Richard Williams, coached Mississippi State to its first Final Four in 1996.

That coaching experience on top of the team’s physical play could form some problems for the Trojans, according to their head coach.

“They are one of the teams in position to get a bye in the tournament,” Don Maestri said. “And that is a huge advantage to have.

“I think they are very good defensively, much like Middle Tennessee. They really get out and get after you. Plus they have an outstanding coaching staff. It’s going to be another one of these hard fought contests, and when you play the upper echelon teams in the league, you have to be ready to give everything you have.”

Tonight’s game will be the last time several Trojans dawn their white jerseys at Sartain Hall. Vernon Taylor, Regis Huddleston, Travis Lee, along with Toombs and Patsatsia will all be honored during Senior Night.

And if those five, along with the rest of the team, want to celebrate the last home game of the season with a victory, Maestri said the team is going to have to play better then it did on Thursday night.

“Hopefully, we execute better than we did against Middle Tennessee,” the coach said. “We turned the ball over so much (Thursday night) and we cannot do that. We played a bit too fast (against MTSU) and I don’t think we were patient enough on offense. We are going to have to play much more patient (tonight) if we want a chance to succeed.”

The Trojans will look to win its fourth-straight game of the season tonight, with a tip-off set for 7:30 p.m.