The Troy men’s basketball team held Louisiana-Monroe at bay 64-55 on a night when the court was named in honor of Coach Don Maestri.
The longtime Trojan basketball coach appreciated the pre-game recognition last Thursday but he couldn’t help but think about how important just winning the game was going to be.
“If you lose the game,” Maestri said, “all that fun in two hours time, you have erased the whole thing.”
Coach Maestri had reason for concern going into halftime with the score 31-28 in favor of the Warhawks due to Troy’s offensive struggles.
“We got what we wanted in the first half,” Troy senior guard Emil Jones said. “We just weren’t able to get those shots to eventually start falling.”
But in the second half, Troy began to find the basket scoring 36 points and holding ULM to just 24 points.
“I think our kids did do a good job defensively,” Maestri said. “That was one of the keys to the game because we were so terrible on offense in the first half that if we hadn’t kept ourselves in the game by making some stops, especially in the last three or four minutes of the half, we may have already been out of the game even before the game was even started in the second half.”
Jones led the Trojans with 17 points and was seven for 13 shooting, despite having a crick in his neck that had flared up three days before the game.
“It might be my good luck charm now so I might keep it.” Jones said with a laugh.
Troy forward Ray Chambers finished with 11 points while point guard Hunter Williams also recorded double digit points against the Warhawks with 10.
“I think Hunter Williams, by playing his natural position at point guard, has made us a better team offensively,” Maestri said. “He creates better for us, he gets other guys open and he knows how to make space for some of our other players to give them easier shots.”
The Trojans’ junior center Josh Warren ended the day with nine boards and two steals.
With the Sun Belt Conference win, Troy improves to 7-10 this season and is currently riding a two game winning streak.
The magical month of December proved not so magical to the Trojans as they went 1-5 with losses to Western Kentucky, Alabama State, Florida Atlantic and Utah Valley twice in overtime with the solitary victory coming on Dec. 15 against Georgia State 57-56.
The New Year began on a bad note for Troy as they were forced to wear a black eye from a 76-59 beat down at the hands of North Texas on the road back on Jan. 3.
The Trojans were able to right the ship two days later with a win over Arkansas Little Rock 67-64, making the victory against ULM all the more important as Troy prepares to venture south to face the Sun Belt Florida schools of Florida Atlantic and Florida International.
“There is not a team that you can look at and say ‘well this is a game that we should win’ it’s just not on the schedule.” Maestri said.
Troy will next take the court in Boca Raton, Fla. when it faces the FAU Owls on Thursday, Jan. 17 at 6 p.m. before heading to South Beach to slug it out with the FIU Golden Panthers on Friday, Jan. 19 at 6:30 p.m.