by: Andrew Clay
Despite beating FIU 69-61 on Valentine’s Day, the Troy basketball team fell two points short to North Texas this past Saturday, Feb. 16 at home.
Troy’s 63-61 loss to the Mean Green came down to a missed three-pointer as time expired.
With eight seconds remaining in the game the Trojans got the ball after a North Texas free throw and began to take it up court.
Troy guard Hunter Williams crossed the half court line as the seconds ticked down finding an open Jeff Mullahey waiting for the ball to shoot the winning three-point shot.
The seconds were draining to zero as Mullahey jumped and shot the ball high towards the hoop.
As the ball drifted through the air the clock read 00.0 but the deafening clunk of ball to rim for a miss ending the game for Troy a disappointing 63-61.
“The strategy was to get it down the court quickly,” Troy coach Don Maestri said. “We didn’t want to call a timeout so they could set the defense up. We tried to get it down and hopefully there would be some scrambling going on which there was, and they were worried about Hunter (Williams) shooting the basketball and next thing you know Jeff (Mullahey) was wide open and he could have been a hero if he could have made that shot.”
Williams had a team high 21 points in the game but the Trojan guard took it as a grain of salt.
“That would have been a big win here at home to get Coach Maestri’s 500th win,” Williams said. “When you have a good scoring game, if you don’t get the win it doesn’t matter much.”
One positive thing was that Troy was able to hold Tony Mitchell, the NBA-bound forward for North Texas, to just nine points and eight boards.
“I think we held our own with him.” Troy senior guard Emil Jones said
In the Thursday game on Feb. 14 at home Troy was able to beat FIU into submission for the 69-61 win.
Before his 21 point performance on Saturday, Williams led the team with 20 points that Thursday due in part to his deadly three-point stroke.
Williams was four for six beyond the arch and seven for 10 shooting the deuces.
“For me when I hit the first one, the basket starts to look a little bigger,” Williams said. “But I was trying to do whatever I could, we knew it was a big game, we knew we had to come out hard.”
The Trojans controlled the first half with 20 rebounds and a 40 percent field goal percentage.
“We know that going into every game we are going to be outmatched in size,” Jones said. “But we know we have got to work hard on the boards because if we win the rebound battle we can compete with anybody and beat anybody.”
The second half began with FIU trailing by six points 29-23 but definitely not out of the game.
The Golden Panthers came back with 11:50 left in the second half to make it 42-42 but in the end clutch shooting by Jones and the Trojans would lead to victory.
“Emil in the second half, when there is pressure shots to be made, it’s amazing,” Coach Don Maestri said. “He really is a pressure shot player.”
Jones finished the night with 17 points and a team-high nine boards.
The Trojans look to put their loss to North Texas behind them when they make their final road trip of the regular season starting with Louisiana-Lafayette on Thursday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m.