Troy (12-20) vs. Arkansas State (18-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 9, 10 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Summit Arena (6,200) -- Hot Springs, Arkansas. Television: Sun Belt Network, CSS. Home Record: Troy 8-7, ASU 13-2. Away Record: Troy 2-12, ASU 5-9. Neutral Record: Troy 2-1, ASU 0-0. Conference Record: Troy 6-14, ASU 12-8. Series Record: Arkansas State leads, 6-4.
GAME NOTES: After enjoying a first-round bye, the second-seeded Arkansas State Red Wolves will begin their quest for a conference championship on Saturday night, as they tangle with the 10th-seeded Troy Trojans at Summit Arena in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
The winner will advance to the semifinal round on Sunday night to battle either Western Kentucky or South Alabama.
Troy (12-20) pulled off a come-from-behind upset victory in the first round of the tournament, taking down seventh-seeded Florida Atlantic on Friday night, 81-79 in overtime. After the Trojans dropped the final five games of the regular season, head coach Don Maestri was finally able to notch his 500th career victory.
Despite dropping its last two games of the regular season, including the finale at Arkansas-Little Rock (78-71), ASU still won seven of its last 10 to finish 18-11 overall and 12-8 in conference. The Red Wolves earned a bye into the quarterfinal round by winning the SBC West Division for the second time in the past three seasons.
These two teams split the season series, with each winning on its home floor. ASU leads the all-time series, 6-4.
In a hotly-contested first-round matchup with FAU, Troy was able to force overtime following a pair of clutch free throws by Emil Jones with 17 seconds left in regulation, and Jones took control in overtime with nine points to give his team the thrilling win. Jones finished the game with 18 points and made all but one of his nine free-throw attempts. Ray Chambers tallied 15 points and seven rebounds in the triumph, while Tevin Calhoun netted 12 points.
The Trojans are normally a much more futile squad at the offensive end of the floor, as they pour in just 62.0 ppg on less than 40 percent shooting from the field. Jones leads the team in scoring with 11.5 ppg and chips in elsewhere with 5.6 rpg, 2.9 spg and 1.7 spg. Hunter Williams is the only other player in double figures with 10.2 ppg, and Chambers brings 8.3 ppg and 5.8 to the table.
Even though ASU had its position in the tournament wrapped up heading into the regular-season finale, it certainly didn't enjoy going out on a losing note. The squad was plagued by foul trouble, as UALR shot 29-of-35 from the free- throw line in taking the seven-point decision. Even in defeat, Marcus Hooten was on fire, shooting 9-of-14 from the floor for a season-high 25 points, while Trey Finn netted 14 points and Brandon Peterson came away with 10 rebounds.
Other than top-seeded Middle Tennessee, no Sun Belt team was more well-rounded than the Red Wolves, as they ranked fourth in scoring offense (69.1 ppg) and second in scoring defense (62.9 ppg) for a +6.2 scoring margin. Peterson earned All-SBC Second Team honors by being one of the most physical forwards in the league, tallying 10.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.2 bpg and 1.0 spg while shooting greater than 51 percent from the field. Ed Townsel (13.2 ppg) and Trey Finn (10.5 ppg) are the top options out on the perimeter, although neither nets greater than 38 percent of his field goal attempts.
Troy saved its best for the first round of this tournament, but a repeat performance is highly unlikely considering it hasn't won back-to-back games since January. Arkansas State is well-rested and ready to expose the Trojans' many weaknesses.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas State 72, Troy 60
03/09 10:42:29 ET