Trojans open new arena with thrilling win

Published 12:49 am Saturday, November 10, 2012

Troy players celebrate after winning an NCAA college basketball game against Mississippi State in Troy, Ala., Friday, Nov. 9, 2012. Troy won 56-53.

The Troy Trojans men’s basketball team opened the new $40 Trojan Arena in style with a thrilling 56-53 victory over Mississippi State in front of a record crowd of 5,120 on Friday.

Emil Jones drilled a 16-foot jumper with 1.6 seconds remaining to break a 53-53 tie and sent the crowd into hysteria.

“It’s unreal. You see stuff like that on TV at the big colleges, but to have something like that at home is great,” Jones said of the atmosphere after his shot.

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Head coach Don Maestri said after the game that the initial play wasn’t designed to go to Jones, but after the senior requested the ball during a timeout, the coach couldn’t refuse.

“He pulled me over to the side and said ‘Coach, I’ve got to have it’,” Maestri said. “It was one of those things people dream about and they see it and then it happens to them. It happened to him tonight. It will be one of the bigger (shots) in this arena for a long time.”

Mississippi was the first-ever Southeastern Conference opponent to play in Troy; it was the Trojans third-ever win over an SEC foe and the first over the Bulldogs in 10 tries.

“We haven’t played man defense since the Dead Sea got sick. We made a commitment this year to do that,” Maestri said. “The effort that (the team) has put into defense all this time, they saw a big reward.”

The first win in Trojan Arena was special to Maestri, who is in his 31st season at the helm of the Trojans program.

“For this team to experience winning the first game in this arena is something these kids won’t forget for the rest of their lives. You can only do that one time.” Maestri said. “It was an exciting night on so many levels for so many people.”

The Trojans built a 10-point lead at halftime behind the hot shooting of newcomer Tevin Calhoun. The junior’s four 3-pointers made him the team’s leading scorer with 12 points and was also the most three’s by a newcomer in his first game since Jonathan Lee in 2003.

Mississippi State’s Jalen Steele hit a pair of free throws with 1:08 left before Jones’ bucket regained the lead for Troy. Steele would finish as the game-high scorer with 16 points.

Though outsized and forward Josh Warren and Ray Chambers fouled out, Troy found a way to out-rebound the Bulldogs, 34-33. It was also the fewest points allowed by the Trojans since they held Western Kentucky to just 48 in 2010.

Jones and Hunter Williams would finish the game with 10 points each. Jones would also lead the team on the boards with eight rebounds.

The Troy football team, which normally attends a movie the night before a home game, was also present to support the basketball team.

On hand to witness the historic victory was the entire board of trustees and the Troy football team, which normally attends a movie the night before a home game.

Troy will travel to College Station to take on Texas A&M in the opening round of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic on Nov. 12. The remainder of the tournament will be held in Chattanooga, Tenn. from Nov. 18-20.