The Troy men’s basketball team advanced to the second day of the Sun Belt Conference Championship in New Orleans on Wednesday night thanks to a 69-62 victory over 10th-seeded South Alabama.
The Trojans were led by the usual suspects in Jordon Varnado and Wesley Person, who combined for 39 points to help secure the win.
Troy got off to a slow start in the first half, shooting a lowly 32.4 percent from the field on its way to a 35-29 deficit going into halftime.
After scoring just two points in the first half, Person exploded for 14 in the final 20 minutes on 5-13 shooting from the floor and 6-8 from the free throw line.
The Trojan defense also tightened up in the second half, holding the Jaguars to just six made shots out of 30 attempts.
Varnado finished just shy of a double-double, scoring 22 points and hauling in nine rebounds.
Alex Hicks also secured a double-double of his own, putting up 13 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out with just under two minutes to play.
Troy will now play second-seeded Georgia State on Friday for a chance to advance to the tournament semifinals.
The Trojans secured the seventh seed in the tournament following an 83-70 win over Georgia State in Atlanta on Thursday, followed by an 89-83 loss to the eventual No. 3 seed in Georgia Southern.
With the conclusion of the regular season, Troy stars Jordon Varnado and Wesley Person were also announced to the All-Sun Belt Conference.
Person’s addition to the all-conference third team was unique, as it marked just the fifth time in Sun Belt history that a player was named to the all-conference team four times. He maintained a spot on the third team for three of those years, making him the second Sun Belt player in history to be on the same all-conference team their entire collegiate career.
Varnado, a junior, is enjoying his second-straight selection to the All-Sun Belt team after being named to the second team this year. Despite missing seven games due to injury, he is averaging 18.1 points per game and seven rebounds per game.
On Thursday, the Trojans took on the Sun Belt’s second-ranked team in Georgia State in a road game that Troy needed to win in order to ensure better seeding in the upcoming tournament.
Varnado led his team with 26 points to go along with eight rebounds in the game, followed by 15 points from Person and a double-double from Alex Hicks.
Going into halftime, Troy was shooting 38.7 percent from the field, compared to 55.2 percent from the Panthers.
That trend reversed in the second half, as the Trojans made just over 46 percent of their shots to go along with 15 made free throws. That shooting fueled a 24-8 Trojan run to start the second half, which was coupled with a 23-15 rebounding advantage in favor of the visitors.
When it was all said and done, Troy came out of Atlanta with its ninth conference win of the season.
Two days later in Statesboro, the Trojans fell prey to the Eagles’ shooting from the 3-point line.
As a team, Georgia Southern made 15 threes on its way to 62.5 percent shooting from long range, and was led by Tookie Brown and Jake Allsmiller’s combined 52 points.
The Trojans were able to close the seven-point deficit they faced in the second half thanks to 27 points from Varnado and 14 points each from Person, Hicks and B.J. Miller, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the duo of Brown and Allsmiller.
The Eagles’ bench also played a crucial role in the game, outscoring Troy’s bench 29-8.
If Troy wins Friday in the tournament’s second round, it will move on to the semifinals on Saturday.