Men of Troy win third straight following wins over Arkansas State, UALR

Wesley Kirchharr

Staff Writer

Troy picked up a pair of wins in Trojan Arena to put together a three-game win streak, starting on Thursday with a six-point overtime win over Arkansas State before taking down Little Rock 82-64.

The Troy men’s basketball team now enters the last stretch of its regular season on its longest win streak since November following a weekend of Sun Belt matchups. The Trojans are in the middle of the conference standings tied for sixth with South Alabama.

On Thursday, the Trojans gave Trojan Arena its first overtime game since 2015 in last-minute fashion, erasing what was a 12-point deficit in the second half to force the extra period.

Senior guard Wesley Person hit two 3-pointers in the final 66 seconds of regulation to tie the game and force an overtime. Person led the Trojans with 24 points during his 44 minutes to go along with his five rebounds and four assists.

“Both teams were playing good offensively,” said Head Coach Phil Cunningham. “At this time of the year, you just have to find a way to win the game.”

The Red Wolves had one last chance to steal the game in regulation following Person’s six unanswered points, but were held scoreless by the Troy defense. Freshman forward Javan Johnson was arguably the hero of the night, as it was his block of a would-be game-winning layup from Arkansas State’s Tamas Bruce that gave the Trojans a chance to win.

Junior forward Jordon Varnado led the Trojans after regulation, scoring five points as part of a 9-0 run by the Trojans to start the overtime. It was all part of his double-double outing, which consisted of 18 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.

His double-double was accompanied by fellow forward Alex Hicks. Hicks, a junior, finished the game with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Arkansas State made one last rally during the overtime period, but came up short despite trailing by four with just over a minute remaining. Four missed free throws by the Trojans in the final 32 seconds of OT went unpunished, and the home team held on to hand the Red Wolves their eighth conference loss this season.

Troy was at home once again on Saturday as it took on another Arkansas team in the Trojans of Little Rock.

Despite faltering offensively in the early goings, the Troy Trojans bounced back to lead by double digits at the halftime break. A big part of that was an explosive first half from Varnado, who nearly achieved another double-double in his 18 first-half visits. His 17 points and nine rebounds in the half helped propel his team to a 44-32 lead going into the locker room.

It took Varnado a little over five minutes into the second half to complete his double-double on his way to 23 points and 13 rebounds for Troy. Both numbers were game-highs.

Johnson and Person followed with 13 and 11 points, respectively.

“I thought early on there was fatigue on both teams’ part at this point of the year, particularly because we went to overtime on Thursday,” Cunningham said. “I thought the way Jordon Varnado stepped his play up really changed the game.”

Troy controlled the game in both rebounds and points in the paint, holding a 41-27 advantage on the boards to go along with 48 points close to the basket.

Troy also made 51.6 percent of its 64 shots from the field, which outpaced Little Rock’s 40.7 shooting percentage. Troy controlled the game for the majority of the night, paving the way for its largest conference win of the year.

With Person’s 11 points in Saturday’s win, he is only 52 points away from reaching 2,000 career points. With six regular-season games and the conference tournament still to play, Person could make history as the first Trojan to score that many points in his career.

He is currently averaging 18.8 points per game, which statistically gives him a good chance at accomplishing the feat before postseason play in March.

The Trojans look ahead now to Thursday’s matchup with the 11-15 Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina in Conway, South Carolina. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m.

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