Troy men tops SBC’s Carolina teams

Wesley Kirchharr

Staff Writer

The Troy men’s basketball team continued to roll through its conference schedule, topping Coastal Carolina 87-78 and downing Appalachian State 76-66.

The Trojans (16-12, 8-4 Sun Belt) sit among the middle of the Sun Belt standings after topping a higher-ranked Coastal Carolina team and having the second-longest win streak in the conference. During this four-game stretch, the Trojans have scored an average of 84 points per contest and have shown their ability to finish close games.

Troy put on an offensive showcase when the Chanticleers came to town Saturday. Four different players scored in double digits, while the Trojans shot 48 percent as a unit. Neither defense could gain the upper hand in the first half as both teams surpassed the 20-point mark with 13 minutes left before the half.

“It was really an interesting start to the game,” Head Coach Phil Cunningham said. “Both teams came out very hot, making threes from everywhere. We knew that we were going to have to get some stops, but luckily we were also making threes to keep the pace. We were good offensively tonight. It was a really good win for us tonight.”

Coastal Carolina trailed by two before Troy put together a 17-8 run just prior to halftime to take a 47-38 lead. After the break, the Trojans didn’t miss a beat. They starting right where they left off, extending the lead into double digits.

The Chanticleers went cold offensively after halftime, going nearly six minutes without a field goal. That allowed the Trojans to build a 24-point advantage.

Coastal Carolina made one final effort to get back in the game near the end, but the Trojans put the game out of reach with some help from its bench. Every available player on the roster saw time on the court, with 10 players getting on the scoreboard.

Monday night’s action saw the Trojans escape Appalachian State, which currently sits near the bottom of the pack among the conference standings.

Troy’s Jordon Varnado took control of the potential four-game win streak by leading the Trojan offense for the fourth consecutive game. Varnado had 21 points and 12 boards in his double-double outing, with the nearest contributor being Kevin Baker with 11 points.

The Mountaineers were never quite out of the game, as the Trojans led only 33-32 going into halftime. Troy then cooked up a 13-2 run to gain some breathing room as the game neared 10 minutes left to play.

Troy stayed on the brink of a double-digit lead until a three-point shot brought the Mountaineers within seven with 10 minutes remaining.

“It was one of those gritty, tough performances,” Cunningham said after the game.  “We were having trouble hitting free throws, but they were having some trouble offensively themselves hitting three-pointers. The defense was the key down the stretch.”

App. State forced the Trojans into free throw play with just seconds remaining, and the Trojans struggled from the line, going 14-22. Jeremy Hollimon was sent to the line and knocked down one attempt, but the Mountaineers followed with a three-point shot to come within five on the following possession.

After Varnado knocked down a pair of key free throws, the remaining 42 seconds of the game were scoreless.

The Trojans will travel to San Marcos, Texas, to take on Texas State on Saturday before taking on conference leader UT-Arlington on Monday.

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