Trojans look to rebound against SUU

Published 8:14 pm Monday, December 19, 2011

Troy guard/forward Emil Jones (10) drives the ball as Mississippi State guard Rodney Hood (4) guards during the first half of an NCAA basketball game in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011. (Messenger Staff Photo/Thomas Graning)

Coming off a pair of losses to conference leaders Mississippi State (SEC) and Belmont (Atlantic Sun), Troy is hungry to get back on a winning track.

The Trojans return home tonight, where they are 3-0 this season, to face Southern Utah.

Troy defeated the Thunderbirds on Nov. 26, 80-76, but head coach Don Maestri knows how rematches can be.

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“It’s always more difficult playing a team for a second time,” he said. “They’re going to do some things different from the first game.

In the first matchup, guard Will Weathers scored Troy’s final 11 points including two jump shots and four free throws in the final seconds to ice the game and snap a 12-game losing streak to non-conference opponents on the road.

The Trojans were out-rebounded the first time around by Southern Utah, something Maestri knows has to change if Troy wants a repeat result.

“We’ll have to rebound better and I know they (SUU) want to shoot the ball better,” said Maestri. “Our guys know they’re going to have to be prepared in order to succeed.”

The Thunderbirds (4-5, 0-1 Summit) forwards proved a handful for Troy, R.J. Scott, Emil Jones and Tim Owens all fouled out attempting to slow down SUU’s low post play.

Forward Ramell Taylor, who is averaging 11.2 points per game, leads Southern Utah. Taylor scored 16 against Troy in the previous meeting.

The Thunderbird’s most potent weapon maybe guard Damon Heuir (11.8 ppg). Heuir knocked down five three pointers against the Trojans en route to a team-high 22 points.

“They’ve got good, strong inside post players. They’re crafty and know how to play in the interior,” Maestri said. “Heuir can really shoot the ball from the outside. He really hurt us last time.”

Troy is struggling of late shooting the ball. The Trojans are hitting just 34 percent of their shots in the past two games. Maestri said while his team has to play the style of basketball Troy is known for, the team needs to show better shot selection.

“I hope we shoot the ball better,” Maestri said. “The last two games we’ve shot the ball poorly. We’re hoping we take some better shots at home.”

Troy has four players averaging double-digit points on the season ¬¬–– point guard Will Weathers (13.5 ppg), guard R.J. Scott (11.2 ppg), guard Alan Jones (11.2 ppg), and guard Justin Wright (10.1 ppg). Emil Jones barely misses the cut with 9.9 points per contest.

Weathers also lead the Sun Belt in assists, averaging six.

The Trojans will get a little help as Steven Cunningham is expected to make his return after sitting out six games due to a cracked orbital bone. Cunningham was expected to miss at least two more weeks of action but Maestri plans to use the senior in short increments. Cunningham was averaging 8.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game before the injury.

“We’re going to try to get him a few minutes in there and see how he performs,” said Maestri.

Troy is 2-1 all-time against Southern Utah. Game time is set for 7 p.m.

For more on Troy Trojan athletics, check out our blog… TROJAN BEAT.