The Troy men’s basketball team has now lost three games in a row, the latest being home games to rival South Alabama 71-67, and to UL-Lafayette 84-80 in overtime.
The Trojans (9-15, 4-11 Sun Belt) have only five games remaining in the regular season, which are all conference games. They have now dropped to last place in the Sun Belt standings.
The first of the two games came on Thursday, Feb. 12, against rival South Alabama (9-17, 7-8 Sun Belt). After coming off a tough loss at Appalachian State, Troy looked to bounce back against a South Alabama team that has also struggled in conference play.
After developing an early lead in the game, the Trojans fell behind as the Jaguars achieved 48.3 percent shooting from the field. The first half remained a battle, and the Jaguars took a two-point lead into halftime.
The second half remained a battle, as South Alabama stretched its lead to seven with three minutes and 54 seconds left. Despite shooting only 34.5 percent from the field in the second half, Troy managed to remain in the game and kept it close throughout.
Despite the effort from the Trojans, poor free throw shooting coupled with 17 points from freshman guard Taishaun Johnson kept Troy at bay as the Jaguars snapped a three-game losing streak.
Two days later, Troy looked to again bounce back from the loss as it played the Sun Belt’s fifth-ranked team in UL-Lafayette (14-12, 8-7 Sun Belt) on Valentine’s Day. The Trojans looked to even the series after losing in Lafayette on Saturday, Jan. 3.
However, Troy came out sluggish and was unable to slow the fast-paced attack of the Ragin’ Cajuns. Even though the Trojans shot a season-best 62 percent from the field, the depth of UL-Lafayette was a huge advantage over the Trojans, who have been plagued by injuries all season.
The Ragin’ Cajuns had 12 players playing minutes against only eight for Troy, which not only allowed for a balanced scoring attack from ULL, but also kept fatigue from being a factor.
Despite this, the Trojans kept the score close and went into halftime down by only six, and looked poised for a second half run. This wasn’t the case, however, as ULL extended its lead to double digits, and went up 57-43 with 13:02 left in regulation.
Troy fought back, though, and slowly but surely brought the lead down to eight points with 1:33 left in the game. Even then, it seemed like the game was out of reach for Troy.
Seven straight points from junior guard Chris Bilbo as well as key turnovers by ULL cut the Ragin’ Cajuns’ lead to just one with 11 seconds remaining.
After ULL hit one of two free throws to go up by two, senior forward Kevin Thomas was fouled with one second remaining and given the chance to send the game to overtime.
Troy looked as if it might complete its comeback in extra time, as it went up by three after a layup by Thomas with 2:30 left in overtime. A 7-0 run by ULL, however, would crush the Trojans’ hopes of a comeback win.
“We’ve had some tough losses, but that one takes the cake,” said head coach Phil Cunningham. “I’m proud of the way the guys fought back and never gave up.”
Troy will attempt to sweep the series with Georgia Southern on Thursday, Feb. 19. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m.