GAME NOTES: Both the Troy Trojans and Florida Atlantic Owls will attempt to build off wins in their most recent outings, as the two squads meet in Boca Raton on Thursday night for a Sun Belt Conference showdown.
Overall, Troy's season has been a disappointment as it has been marred by a run of eight losses in nine game from late-November to early-January, but things are looking up as its coming off back-to-back wins -- the team's first victories in conference play this year.
The Trojans played host to ULM on Jan. 10, and although they trailed at the half, they battled back to claim a 64-55 win. They were outshot from the field, 45.8 percent to 40 percent, but they drained seven 3-pointers and won the turnover battle, 13-7. The bench accounted for 38 points in the victory, led by strong performances from Emil Jones (17 points) and Ray Chambers (11 points). Hunter Williams was also solid with 10 points and five assists.
FAU has been streaky on its way to a 9-9 overall record. After winning three in a row in early December, it went on to lose four of five, only to bounce back with victories in three of its last four.
The Owls improved to 4-3 in conference play last Saturday with one of their most impressive wins of the season, going on the road to topple Western Kentucky, 65-62. They actually led by 13 points with 3:30 to play, only to watch the Hilltoppers mount a furious comeback, but they were able to hold on by the skin of their teeth. The squad shot 49 percent from the floor and was led once again by Greg Gantt, who shot 8-of-19 from the field for 22 points. Pablo Bertone and Stefan Moody were also impressive with 15 points apiece.
FAU claimed the first matchup between the two earlier this season, 61-54, on Dec. 27, but Troy still leads the all-time series by a 19-11 margin.
Troy has not been very strong at the offensive end of the court this season, as it ranks 10th in the league in scoring at 62.2 ppg. The biggest reason for the team's struggles has been its showing from beyond the arc. Even though the Trojans have attempted the most treys in the conference (389), they only connects on 3-pointers at a 31.1 percent clip. The only Troy player to score in double-digits on a nightly basis is Emil Jones, who tallies 10.5 ppg to go with his 5.9 rpg. Williams (9.5 ppg) and Antoine Myers (8.9 ppg) are also relatively consistent, and all three top scorers dish out at least 2.6 apg.
FAU's offensive output this season has been modest at best (.406 FG percentage, 64.3 ppg), but it would be even worse without the presence of Gantt, who's not only the Sun Belt's leading scorer with 22.4 ppg, but the fourth-best in the nation. Gantt is outstanding from 3-point range, draining a league-best 51 long-range buckets at a 41.8 percent clip, as well as the free- throw line (.840). Moody is a solid second-option, netting 14.3 ppg.
Although Troy has been on a roll of late, it has not been strong away from home. Gantt and the Owls should be able to shoot their way past the Trojans in this one.