Heartbreak in Pensacola

 by Taylor Fraze

The Troy men’s basketball team’s campaign for a championship screeched to a halt after a loss to James Madison in the Sun Belt Tournament Quarterfinals. Troy won its first matchup in dramatic fashion over Arkansas State in round two of the tournament and had optimism heading into the quarterfinals. Troy held the lead against JMU for the first six minutes of the game but lost the lead with 14:06 in the first half. Troy was not able to recapture the lead for the rest of the game resulting in a three-point loss, 72-75. 

“It is not the ending that we wanted,” said Head Coach Scott Cross in his post-game interview. “I am very proud of our guys for the effort they gave and how hard they fought. 

“They have been a joy to coach.” 

Troy’s first matchup was up against the Arkansas State Red Wolves. Arkansas State came off a dominating win over Coastal Carolina to meet Troy in the second round of the tournament. This game was nothing short of a classic as Troy erased a 12-point deficit to win the game 63-59. The first half featured 13 lead changes and six ties because neither team could find a consistent offensive rhythm. Arkansas State’s offense exploded to a quick lead in the second half, getting up to as many as 12 points with 8:55 remaining in the game. Troy played from behind for almost the entire second half until Nelson Phillips sparked the momentum for the Trojans. Aamer Muhammad missed a potential game changing layup at the 3:30 mark of the second half, but this did not matter as Phillips skied in for the rebound and dunked it over the Arkansas State defender. Nelson followed this dunk with a steal and a step-back three to put the Trojans up 59-57. This three-pointer helped Troy hold on to the lead for the rest of the game and advanced the Trojans to the quarterfinals against the fourth-seeded JMU Dukes. 

Troy’s season ended with a loss against JMU 72-75. James Madison had a better field goal percentage than the Trojans converting 45-percent of their shots. Troy converted 39-points of its shots but had a 19-percent 3-point shooting percentage, which was the key factor in the loss against the Dukes. Troy was also out rebounded 35-46 with JMU getting 16 offensive rebounds. James Madison sophomore guard Terrence Edwards scored 27 of the Duke’s 75 points in their victory. The Trojan duo Christyon Eugene and Nelson Phillips combined for 46 points in the losing effort. 

The Trojans await a call from the NIT or CBI to see if their basketball postseason will continue. Last year, the Trojans were invited to the CBI but lost to Abilene Christian in the first round. Troy ends the regular season with a 20-13 record. 

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