The Troy men’s basketball team hosted two conference foes from the Peach State over the weekend, falling to Georgia State 78-72 before taking down conference leader Georgia Southern 83-76.
The Trojans (12-11, 4-5 Sun Belt) maintain a record over the .500 mark, tying for seventh in the Sun Belt standings. Troy fell victim to Georgia State’s six-game win streak, but made a case to remain in the hunt for a conference title two days later after handing Georgia Southern its second conference loss of the year.
In Saturday’s matchup with the Panthers, junior guard Wesley Person and the Trojans tried to erase a 14-point halftime deficit after a lackluster first half. Troy shot 15-30 in the second half after knocking down only seven of its 20 first-half shots. Georgia State took control down low and scored 46 points in the paint compared to the 20 put up by the Trojans.
“You can’t go down 14 at the half to a team as talented as Georgia State,” Head Coach Phil Cunningham said. “The game got away from us at the end of the first half. We didn’t play very well in the first half, and that made us play from behind in the second half.”
Georgia State took many of Troy’s offensive weapons out of the equation, with Jordon Varnado and Juan Davis both scoring under 10 points. Person and Jeremy Hollimon were the only Trojans to break into double digits, with Person pacing the offense with 25 and Hollimon chipping in 16 off the bench.
Troy’s 16 turnovers proved costly, though, keeping the game out of reach after being down by just six with under a minute remaining. The Panthers put the game on ice after free throws and one final Trojan turnover, making the final score 78-72.
On Monday night, Troy held on for a crucial victory despite Georgia Southern’s nearly double-digit comeback. In a game that seemed to be favoring the Trojans, the Eagles overcame a 22-point deficit to come back within two points.
Troy exploded to begin the second half, outscoring the Eagles 23-9 coming out of the locker rooms. Midway through the second half, though, Georgia Southern went on a 31-11 run of its own. With the outcome still undecided, free throws ultimately gave the Trojans the cushion they needed, with Troy making six of its 10 free throws in the final 1:09. As the clock expired, Troy held a seven-point lead, 83-76.
“That was a hard-fought win,” Cunningham said. “We took that big lead; then they got back into it. I didn’t think we played perfect against the way they came back, but that team is so capable of scoring. Just to hold on to get a win was critical.”
Person and DeVon Walker paced the Trojan offense, scoring 19 and 15 points, respectively. After being outmatched on the glass in the previous game, Troy held a 42-32 rebound advantage that helped lead to 31 second chance points. Along with the second chances, Troy held a four-point scoring advantage in the paint.
Troy looks ahead to a highly anticipated home matchup against in-state rival South Alabama on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 4:15 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN3.