Varnado, Troy come up short against South Alabama

(PHOTO/ Joshua Thurston)
(PHOTO/ Joshua Thurston)
Sophomore forward Jordon Varnado scored 12 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out three assists, but the Trojans came up just short at home against South Alabama.
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Wesley Kirchharr

Staff Writer

The Troy men’s basketball team continued the trend of maintaining a .500 record, falling to conference foe South Alabama 76-71 in Trojan Arena.

The Trojans (12-12, 4-6 Sun Belt) were in striking distance nearly all Saturday night, led by junior guard Kevin Baker’s career night. Baker had 19 points in the game, with most of it coming from five shots from behind the arc.

Behind him in scoring was sophomore Jordon Varnado, who put up 12 points and eight boards in 26 minutes of action.

Aside from Baker, Troy struggled to make shots, shooting 38 percent from the floor, while the Jaguars came to life in the second half after a slow start in the first. South Alabama controlled the paint the entire game, outscoring Troy 36-22 in the lane.

“That was a tough one to swallow,” Head Coach Phil Cunningham said after the game. “I didn’t think we played particularly well tonight. We put ourselves in a position to win the game. We took an early lead in the second half, and it evaporated quickly. We got back in the game and had a chance there at the end. It was a back-and-forth game that anyone could have won.”

Troy tied the game seven times throughout the game, and held a six-point lead midway through the second quarter. Troy held a one-point advantage as the teams headed to the locker rooms, but that lead was erased by the Jaguars when they put together a 16-2 run after the break.

The teams tossed the lead back and forth in the second half, and as the fourth quarter began, neither team could seem to gain an advantage. With 3:18 left to play, Wesley Person connected on two free throws as part of his 14 points to even the game at 63.

The back-and-forth trend continued as South Alabama scored on the ensuing possession. Another Baker three-pointer helped Troy reclaim a 66-65 lead, but it was to be short-lived.

With under a minute remaining, the Trojans found themselves down by three. A desperate three-point attempt from the Trojans led to a rebound and two points off the fast break for South Alabama, increasing the deficit.

Person’s only three-pointer of the night found its target to bring Troy within three with nine seconds remaining, but a pair of South Alabama free throws sealed the deal for the visitors. As the final buzzer sounded, the final score stood 76-71 in the Jaguars’ favor.

Along with Baker’s career scoring night, the Trojans also saw season bests from the charity stripe. Troy hit 17 of its 19 free throw attempts, its best percentage so far this season. Troy also committed a season-low eight turnovers during the game.

Troy has somewhat of a breather before heading to Lafayette, Louisiana, where it will take on the Ragin’ Cajuns on Saturday. The conference matchup will be broadcast on ESPN3 starting at 7:15 p.m.