Troy’s men’s basketball team split its last two games from last weekend as it continued its road success this season with a win over the Sun Belt’s top-seeded team, Georgia Southern, 65-62, but lost at home to UALR by a score of 63-58.
The Trojans (10-16, 5-12 Sun Belt) dropped to last place in the conference standings after the loss, and will be hard pressed to earn the eighth seed in the standings to qualify for the tournament.
Already on a three-game losing streak, Troy traveled to Statesboro, Georgia, on Thursday, Feb. 19, to play the then second-seed in the conference.
Troy already edged the Eagles (19-6, 12-4 Sun Belt) at home earlier this season and looked for the series sweep.
The Trojans had to battle hard to remain in the game in the first half against a GSU team that had won seven of its last eight games. Senior forward Kevin Thomas contributed 10 points in the first half, and helped the Trojans achieve a three-point lead going into halftime.
Georgia Southern wasn’t finished however, and battled hard to retake the lead early in the second half.
Senior guard Musa Abdul-Aleem’s 25 total game points and the Trojans’ 46 percent shooting in the second half gave Troy the edge it needed to come up with a big road victory.
Abdul-Aleem hit a jumper with 32 seconds left to give the Trojans the final lead. Thomas added the final points with a free throw.
Two days later, Troy returned to Trojan Arena to face UALR, on Saturday, Feb. 21, as it looked to improve and climb back up the Sun Belt standings.
The Trojans (12-15, 7-10 Sun Belt) of UALR had other ideas however, and maintained the lead for all but two short periods in the game.
Troy shot a weak 25 percent from the field in the first half, and went into halftime down 25-15, having scored the fewest points in a half this season since scoring 15 on Dec. 30 against Texas State.
Although the Trojans battled hard to get back in the game, UALR was able to keep them at bay with help from 17 points from junior guard Josh Hagins to keep the game out of reach.
“That was about a simple of a game as we’ve had,” said head coach Phil Cunningham. “They came out in a [triangle and two zone defense], and they said, ‘we’re going to face-guard [freshman guard Wesley Person] and Abdul-Aleem, and see if they’re other guys can beat us’, and we didn’t.”
The visiting Trojans’ perimeter defense was exceptional for the entire game, holding Troy to five of 21 shooting from beyond the arc.
“I don’t think there are too many positives to take from this game,” Cunningham said. “We got to throw that one in the dumpster and move on. What we need to do is take some time this week and find some ways to attack that triangle and two. I’d be surprised if we didn’t see that again this season.”
Troy will look to continue its road success this season as they travel to play at Texas State on Thursday, Feb. 26. The Trojans will return to face Georgia State on Saturday, Feb. 28. Tipoff is at 4:15 p.m.