REBOUNDING: Trojans look to regain ground in Sun Belt as they host UT-Arlington
Published 3:00 am Thursday, January 14, 2016
Upcoming home games could give the Troy Trojans a chance to overcome a disappointing start in conference play.
The Trojans (5-10) have had their fair share of tough luck losses since the calendar flipped to 2016, losing all four Sun Belt conference games they’ve played by a combined 18 points.
“We are not pleased with our start or where we are at,” said Trojans head coach Phil Cunningham. “Two of our games we thought we let get away.”
In the game against Arkansas State, the Trojans held a three-point lead with a minute to go before letting it slip away. In their overtime loss to Georgia Southern, the Trojans held a two-point lead before missing a wide-open three-pointer and two free throws.
“Had we won those two games, we would be 2-2,” Cunningham said. “If you look at Little Rock and Georgia State, they are the best two teams in the league so those are going to be tough games every night. The other two we felt like we let them get a way.”
Three teams are undefeated in the Sun Belt: Little Rock, Arkansas State and UT-Arlington. After Georgia State, who sits at 3-1 there are seven teams who sit at .500 or below, and those are the opponents who provide the best opportunity for the Trojans to gain ground.
“There are four other teams that are 1-3,” Cunningham said. “We are not at the panic stage yet, but we have to find a way to fight through and get back into this thing.”
With the Trojans returning home for the first time since Jan. 2, the time to start making headway comes now.
“We need to win so badly, just for confidence,” Cunningham said. “We are the same team who three weeks ago went into Ole Miss and lost in overtime. We are 2-1 against Conference USA. We are the same team. We can’t lose site of that. We have what it takes; we just have to find a way to fight through it.”
That will be a tough challenge tonight, as Troy hosts UT-Arlington. The Mavericks are 3-0 in conference play and 12-2 overall, with big non-conference wins against Ohio State and Memphis.
“Obviously getting the wins is the best way to find success,” Cunningham said. “We have to make an improvement defensively. They are one of the best offenses in our league. We have to show more fight.”
The Mavericks have one of the best offenses in the conference, averaging 82 points per game in conference play.
“We are facing a team that is probably one of the best offensive teams in the league,” Cunningham said. “They lead the league in assists and are first in three-pointers made per game. They are playing at a real high level right now.”
The Trojans come into the matchup averaging 74 points per game. Sophomore Wesley Person leads the way for the Trojans by averaging nearly 19 points per game.
Freshman Jordon Varnado is currently tied for sixth among freshmen in the country in double-doubles with five and 10th in scoring with an average of 16 points per game.
Cunningham said there is no better time than now for the Trojans to fight their way back in the conference. “Our guys will be ready to play,” Cunningham said. “We are at home. You have to be excited about playing them. We are going to have to come out and fight and scrap.”
The Trojans and Mavericks will tip off at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.