FAST START: The Troy Trojans jump out to a 2-0 start after defeating South Florida and Reinhartd
Published 3:30 am Tuesday, November 17, 2015
With the help of Wesley Person and Jordon Varnado, the Troy Trojans kicked off the 2015-16 basketball season with a pair of wins to give the Trojans a 2-0 start heading into Thursday’s class with in-state rival University of Alabama-Birmingham Thursday.
The Trojans traveled to Tampa on Friday and pulled an upset over American Athletic Conference foe, South Florida 82-77. The Trojans followed the win against the Bulls with an impressive victory over Reinhardt on Sunday afternoon in the home opener 97-82.
“Our guys were really excited for the opportunity to start the season down in south Florida,” said Troy head coach Phil Cunningham.
The Trojans entered the game with a lot of questions from outside the program, as well as inside.
“It was the first Division 1 game for six of our players,” Cunningham said. “We didn’t know how they were going to respond once the lights came on. They guys really came to play. They got down early in the first half and fought back at the end of the half. It was a terrific win. We were able to take on a team from the American Athletic Conference, and they looked the part.”
After traveling all day Saturday the jet lag seemed to hamper the Trojans early in Sunday’s game. Troy trailed for most of the first half before they were able to pick up their intensity in the second half.
Varnado and Person combined to score 54 points in the win for the Trojans.
Varnado has earned a double-double in both games on the season. The Tennessee native scored 21 points and hauled in 11 boards against the Bulls and followed that up with 26 points and 10 rebounds against the Eagles.
“The thing that stands out about him, is his versatility,” Cunningham said. “He has proven he can score from behind the three-point line, and he can score around the basket. He did some things that surprised even us by playing off the dribble. He is inexperienced, but he has come out and really played above what any one expected.”
The Trojans will now look ahead to a big showdown Thursday inside Trojan Arena against the Blazers. UAB was knocked out in the round of 32 in last year’s NCAA tournament and return five starts.
“We’ll see how much affect it has on the entire season, but it made Thursday’s game even more exciting,” Cunningham said. “I hope it effects what happens Thursday. We hope gets people excited.”
The Trojans due to an NCAA mandated rule will have to have a day off from practice between now and Thursday’s game meaning the preparation will be shortened.
“From a coaches perspective, we really have to watch what we do,” Cunningham said. “Coming off our travel on Saturday, our guys are battling fatigue. We have to get healed up quickly, and find the balance between preparation and making sure we are ready to play against UAB.”
The Trojans are hoping the excitement inside Trojan Arena will rival the crowd from the Ole Miss game a season ago.
“If you look at our schedule, this is obviously the marquee game,” Cunningham said. “Anytime we can get a quality opponent to come in here it’s a signature event. I give UAB credit. They agreed to play us in a home-and-home series. It should be an incredible atmosphere. It’s a Thursday night, so the students should be here.”
Tip-off between the Blazers and Trojans is scheduled for 7 p.m. inside Trojan Arena.