Troy looks for packed Trojan Arena on Senior Night

Published 1:59 pm Thursday, February 23, 2023

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The Troy Trojans men’s basketball team is gearing up for one last stand at Trojan Arena this Friday night as Coastal Carolina comes to town for the Sun Belt Conference regular season finale.

The Trojans are winners of five of their last six matchups and will secure the No. 5 seed in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament with a win. Troy comes into the matchup trailing Coastal in the all-time series 9-6, however.

“We want to finish strong and get some positive momentum,” Troy coach Scott Cross said. “Winning five of the last six is good but we want to make it six of the last seven going into the tournament. That would give us a lot of momentum going in there.”

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After suffering a skid in January, the Trojans have bounced back and have looked like one of the top teams in the conference in recent weeks.

“We went from a 2-2-1 3/4 court press (defense) and went back to a matchup zone (defense),” Cross said of changes his team made. “I think that helped us in those wins. Against Marshall it was ineffective because of how well they pass the ball and they’re also the fastest tempo team in the country.

“I do think with the rest of the teams it can be more effective and if we face Marshall in the tournament, we’ll have to make some more adjustments, but I think we can do that and maybe give them a little more trouble defensively.”

Troy seniors like Zay Williams, Kieffer Punter, Darius McNeil and Nelson Phillips have been a big part of that turnaround and Cross said he wants to send those seniors off big on Friday.

“We need every last person (in Trojan Arena). These four seniors are awesome,” he continued. “They meant a lot to the program and helped build this up. It would be a great way to send them off with a victory and a packed house.”

Troy is planning for some fun bonuses for the event, as well. There will be a $1,000 giveaway where one lucky Troy student will win $1,000 in cash. Also, the first 500 students in attendance receive free bacon. The school is also hosting ticket specials where general admission tickets are just $5 and reserve seating tickets are $10. Children 12 and under will also get in free. Additionally, anyone that shows a baseball ticket stub from the 2 p.m. Troy baseball game will receive a free general admission ticket. There will also be a special halftime show from the Frisbee Dogs.

“We have a huge game on Friday with tons of promotions,” Troy Athletic Director Brent Jones said. “Our students have been amazing all year long and we’re looking for another amazing crowd. This is an important game as we head into the Sun Belt Tournament.”

The Trojans have accomplished back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2011.

“Scott Cross has totally turned around this program in year five,” Jones said. “Coach Cross connects with our student-athletes but also with our fans and students. We’ve seen record attendance and ticket sales and the overall energy in the program has been incredible.

“Last year we were the only men’s and women’s teams to win 20 games and both make it to postseason play and we’re primed to do that again.”

While back-to-back winning seasons is a plus, Cross still has much more in mind for his Trojans.

“It’s a step in a positive direction. We always want to have winning seasons but that’s the lowest bar for our program,” Cross emphasized. “I want to win a championship. We can’t win a regular season championship but we can still win the tournament championship and go on to the NCAA Tournament, which are our two biggest goals.

“The other goal is to win more than we won last year, which would be 21-plus wins. If we can get to 20 that would be back-to-back 20-win seasons and that would be another great accomplishment. To make it a perfect year would be 21-plus wins, a conference championship and to go to the NCAA Tournament. So, that’s where my focus is.”