Men’s hoops starts season with victories at home

Wesley Kirchharr

Staff Writer

The Troy men’s basketball team picked up two wins over the weekend, beating Toccoa Falls and Eastern Illinois in Trojan Arena.

The Trojans (2-0, 0-0 Sun Belt) gave fans a high-scoring game in the opener Friday as they routed Toccoa Falls 135-76 before winning a thriller Monday night, edging Eastern Illinois 70-67.

“It was a good way to start to give our guys some confidence,” Head Coach Phil Cunningham said after the wins.

On Friday, fans witnessed an offensive showcase not seen since 2007 as Troy dropped 135 points on the Screaming Eagles of Toccoa Falls. Just seconds into the game, Troy took the lead and didn’t look back.

Over five minutes into the game, Troy held a commanding 22-5 lead, and it took a 63-38 score into the half.

After passing the 50-point mark in the first half for the first time since 2014, the Trojans went right back to work. Troy, having four players listed at 6 feet 8 inches, made its presence known in the paint, where it dropped 61 points.

The Trojan offense was firing on all cylinders, shooting 60 percent from the field.

Sophomore Shawn Hopkins paced the offense with 19 points and six rebounds. Juniors Kevin Baker and Juan Davis Jr. chipped in 17 points each to round out the top three Trojan scorers.

On Monday, Troy and Eastern Illinois fought right down to the final buzzer as a jump shot by sophomore Jordan Varnado put the game away with 3.4 seconds remaining.

After a slow start, Troy held a 38-27 lead at the half, only to see the Panthers chip away at the lead in the second half. Although Troy never trailed in the second half, EIU hung around until time expired.

“We knew it was going to be a tough, hard-nosed, physical, grind-out type of game,” Cunningham said. “It’s interesting how it came down to the last play.”

After shooting a bleak 39 percent from the field, the difference maker for the Trojans was the points in the paint. Thirty-nine of Troy’s points came from inside the paint, compared to 20 for EIU.

Along with the game winner, Varnado went 9-for-14 from the floor, racking up 22 points. Following Varnado’s performance were junior Wesley Pearson and sophomore Alex Hicks, who scored 14 and 11 points, respectively.

The Trojans will return to action on Thursday, Nov. 17, when they take on UAB. Tipoff in Birmingham is set for 7 p.m.

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