Person breaks conference record, Varnado hits buzzer beater in team’s home stretch

Wesley Kirchharr

Staff Writer

The Troy men’s basketball team split a pair of conference games during a two-game home stretch, narrowly falling to Coastal Carolina 73-72 on Saturday before topping Appalachian State 81-79 at the buzzer Monday.

The Trojans saw their own Wesley Person break the Sun Belt Conference record for most career 3-pointers made on Saturday, but that was not enough to overcome a stingy Chanticleer defense in the final minutes Saturday night. Two nights later, it was Jordon Varnado and his last-second layup that lifted the Trojans to victory over the Mountaineers.

On Saturday night, Person laid claim to having made more 3-point shots than any other player in conference history thanks to a corner three that hit nothing but net. That shot came courtesy of a Kevin Baker assist on a fast break opportunity at the 5:28 mark in the first half.

Troy built a double-digit lead late in the second half, holding a 13-point advantage behind Varnado’s 21-point night. Coastal Carolina rallied back in the final stretch of the half to hold Troy to only two baskets in the final 13 minutes of play.

“It was a tale of two halves,” said Head Coach Phil Cunningham. “We played really well in the first half and took a commanding lead, but we just couldn’t sustain it.

“Coastal Carolina got back into the game pretty quickly.”

The Chanticleers shut down the Trojan offense, leaving Person without a point in the second half, and the entire team without a point in the final two minutes. Along with a strong defensive effort, Coastal shot 15-30 from the field in the second half, much improved from Troy’s 8-24 mark.

Coastal Carolina took control with under a minute remaining, leading 74-73. Troy’s possession of three seconds was outlasted by the Chanticleers, leaving no chance for a game-winning shot attempt. Coastal Carolina stole the one-point victory after having not led by more than three points after the first minute of the game.

In Monday night’s action, a packed Trojan Arena experienced the happier side of a last-second victory. The crowd of 3,017 fans was later recognized as the fourth-largest to ever watch a game in Trojan Arena.

“It was a much-needed win for us as much as anything because Saturday was such a tough loss,” Cunningham said. “From a mental standpoint, we had to find a way to get a win tonight just to try to move past Saturday.

“Saturday’s loss was one that could have hung with us for a long time. We needed to find a way to get past it, and nothing like a win to do that.”

The Trojans held a slim, five-point lead with under a minute remaining, but Appalachian State evened the score after a short offensive run following a Troy turnover.

The Trojans went 14-19 from the free throw line, but Alex Hicks split a pair of attempts in his final trip with under 10 seconds remaining to give Troy a two-point advantage.

Appalachian State answered quickly, leaving enough time for Hicks to find Person on a break for the basket after the inbound pass with eight seconds left.

Person and B.J. Miller missed subsequent layups, but Varnado saved the day with the putback basket. Person and Varnado finished with 16 and 14 points, respectively, to lead all Trojan scorers.

After breaking the conference 3-point record days prior, Person is now set to break Troy’s all-time career points record of 1,865. He needs just 11 more points to surpass the record.

Troy looks ahead to a two-game road stretch, matching up against UL-Monroe Thursday in Monroe, Louisiana, before taking on conference leader Louisiana on Saturday. Thursday’s tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

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