Troy men fall to Little Rock, women wallop South Alabama

Published 8:44 pm Saturday, February 12, 2022

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Both the Troy Trojans men and women’s basketball teams engaged in conference competition on Feb. 12 with the men dropping a frustrating loss, while the women knocked off a rival.

The Troy men (17-8, 8-4) hosted Little Rock in some Trojan on Trojan action with Troy losing 79-77 in a game in which Troy trailed for the majority of the game.  The conference loss hurts Troy’s hopeful run towards a No. 1 seed in the Sun Belt Tournament, but it also dampened a celebration of the 30-year anniversary of the 1992 game in which Troy State scored an NCAA-record 258 points.

Troy Athletic Director Brent Jones, left, welcomes legendary Troy coach Don Maestri, right, onto the court during a celebration of the 258-point game from 1992. (Photo by Josh Boutwell)

The 1992 team was honored at halftime – with legendary Troy coach Don Maestri receiving a special plaque – and the current Trojans wore special throwback Troy State jerseys for the occasion.

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Little Rock came into the game spoiling for an upset and wasted no time jumping out to an early 8-4 lead in the first half. Every time Troy managed to tie the score, Little Rock would pull ahead again. Still, Troy managed to tie the score 31-31 at halftime.

A 10-0 run in the second half gave Little Rock a 55-47 lead with under nine minutes remaining. Troy then began to cause issues for Little Rock with its full-court press defense and cut the lead to 55-54 with less than seven minutes left capping off a 7-0 run.

Just like the first half, though, every time Troy seemed to get the momentum swung in their way, Little Rock would pull away again. Troy cut the lead to 62-60 when TK Smith buried a pair of free throws with 1:24 left. Little Rock hit their own free throws swelling the lead back out to 64-60 with 46 seconds left.

After another Little Rock free throw, Troy’s Nick Stampley cut the lead to 65-62 with a fade away jumper with just 25 seconds left. Troy then forced a quick Little Rock turnover but a three fell short and another Little Rock free throw swelled the lead to 66-62 for good.

Little Rock knocked down 10-of-23 three-point attempts with Troy knocking down just 6-of-22 attempts in a statistic that played a big part in the final score, especially down the stretch.

Christyon Eugene and the Trojans were throwback Troy State uniforms against Little Rock. (Photo by Josh Boutwell)

Christyon Eugene led Troy with 14 points and three assists in the win, while Smith scored 11 points and Efe Odigie added 10 points. Jovan Stulic scored 18 points for Little Rock.

“It’s disappointing losing, especially with our 258-point celebration today,” Troy coach Scott Cross said. “I wanted nothing more than to get a victory for them. Just so many fans in here, but we just weren’t mentally ready. I tried my best before the game to get our guys fired up.

“They probably looked at that South Alabama and Little Rock score and felt like we were going to show up and win the basketball game. It doesn’t work that way, and that’s why they play the games. The Sun Belt Conference is very even, and Little Rock showed that they are a good basketball team. They were tougher than us today. They hit big shots, and our defense was nonexistent. We didn’t do the little things that have made us successful.”

Things will heat up even further on Feb. 17 when the Trojans head to North Carolina to face off against the current No. 1 team in the Sun Belt, Appalachian State, for a game that will stream on ESPN+ at 5:30 p.m.

The Troy women’s squad (18-7, 9-2) fared much better knocking off rival South Alabama for the second time in a week, by a score of 80-60. Troy jumped out to an early 22-11 lead and took a 44-26 lead at halftime. The Trojans continued to dominate South Alabama in the second half to secure yet another conference win.

Za’Nautica Downs led the Troy women to another win over South on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Troy University Athletics)

Za’Nautica Downs led Troy with 14 points, while Amber Leggett and Tiyah Johnson scored 11 points each. Jasmine Robinson added 10 points and Felmas Koranga grabbed 13 rebounds. The women are back at home this week against Georgia State on Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. and against Georgia Southern on Feb. 19 at 4 p.m.