Sun Belt’s Texas teams too much to handle for Troy

Wesley Kirchharr

Staff Writer

The Troy men’s basketball team had a winless weekend road trip to the Lone Star State, as they fell short to both Texas State and conference leader UT-Arlington.

The Trojans (16-14, 8-8 Sun Belt) rode in on a four-game win streak before Texas State escaped with a 63-59 victory and UT-Arlington won convincingly, 82-67.

The Trojans and the Bobcats, neck-and-neck in conference standings, battled it out until the final seconds on Saturday night, ending with a pair of Texas State free throws to seal the deal.

Both teams’ offenses were evenly paced throughout the first half, as the largest lead was an eight-point Trojan advantage. As the first half expired, Ojai Black sunk a three point for the Bobcats to bring them within three as they headed to the locker rooms, 30-27.

Texas State came out of the intermission firing on all cylinders, as it jumped out to a nine-point lead, the largest of the game.

Troy began to chip away at the deficit behind the work of Jordon Varnado. Varnado pitched in 24 points in his 37 minutes of play. The Trojans drew a fair amount of offense from the bench, as Jeremy Hollimon and Wesley Person chipped in 12 and 11 points, respectively.

After a pair of free throws from Hollimon, Troy was right back in the game, only trailing by four with four minutes left to play.

The game continued to be up for grabs even within the final minute. Kevin Baker hit a shot from behind the arc with 17 seconds remaining to give the Trojans a chance to take the lead, only down one.

Texas State iced the remaining seconds with a free throw and layup, leaving no hope for a Troy comeback.

On Monday night, Troy was outlasted by a Mavericks team projected as a 12 seed in the upcoming NCAA Basketball Tournament, according to the latest ESPN Bracketology bracket by Joe Lunardi.

The Mavericks executed a difficult game plan on the defensive side of the ball, holding Varnado to 10 points, while Juan Davis Jr. led the Trojans with 14. UT-Arlington raced out to a 15-point halftime lead on their way to clinching a share of the Sun Belt Conference regular season title.

The Mavericks shot an even 50 percent from the floor, compared to Troy’s 41 percent. UT-Arlington also took control of the game in the post, outscoring Troy 44-24 in the paint.

The Trojans came out of the locker room well-adjusted as they kept even pace with the Mavericks. Both teams scored 37 points after the half so UT-Arlington was able to keep the Trojans at bay to hold out for the victory.

“The thing that stands out tonight is that UT Arlington is a well-oiled machine,” Head Coach Phil Cunningham said. “They are playing at a high-level right now. I think they have a chance to get an at-large bid (to the NCAA tournament) if they don’t win the Sun Belt tournament. They were ready to go tonight. They were playing to clinch a title tonight and it showed.”

The Trojans will play host to the likely No. 2 seed in the conference tournament in Arkansas State tonight at 7:30 p.m. Troy will also host its regular season finale in Trojan Arena when Little Rock comes to town on Saturday at 4:15 p.m. Both games will be broadcast on ESPN3.

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