Troy’s men’s basketball team started the season 3-5 with a Southern Miss loss and an inexplicable overtime home loss to Austin Peay.
That’s why when the Trojans traveled to Western Kentucky on Dec. 16 to face a Hilltopper team with wins over West Virginia and Arkansas the Trojans weren’t given much of a chance.
Then Troy won.
The matchup was the first time the two teams have met since Western Kentucky left the Sun Belt for Conference USA.
The Trojans were 6-10 against Western Kentucky as conference foes and the Hilltoppers were riding a three game win streak over Troy when they departed the league.
Troy made up for being outrebounded 40-29 and having a free throw disadvantage of 25-9 by simply shooting the lights out in the 87-81 victory.
Alex Hicks scored 20 and Jordon Varnado added 19 as the Trojans hit on 54.1 percent of its shots. Throw in Troy’s effectiveness beyond the arc and the Trojans’ effective field goal percentage was 63.9 compared to Western Kentucky’s 43.1.
BJ Miller and Darian Adams combined for 25 points and 10 assists, giving the Trojans the boost they need out of a young backcourt. Miller’s five assists in 30 minutes worked out to a solid 25.3 assist rate.
Five days later in Birmingham, Troy needed some late game heroics and a little bit of a luck to capture a dramatic 74-73 win over UAB.
The win was Troy’s first ever against the Blazers, who had won each of the first 10 matchups.
Troy held a 37-31 lead at halftime but watched it quickly evaporate early in the second half courtesy of an 11-0 UAB run. The Trojans clawed back but the Blazers found another spurt, this time a 7-0 run.
The Trojans had to endure multiple two-plus minute scoring droughts but an atrocious showing at the free throw line by UAB left the door open for Troy to charge back in the final minute.
UAB held a 73-72 lead and missed three consecutive free throws in the half-minute.
Varnado scored his 32nd point, a new career high, with 11 seconds left to give Troy the lead. UAB then threw up a prayer from just inside half-court… and drilled it.
The Blazers and Blazer faithful erupted in celebration but their joy quickly turned to shock. The shot did not leave shooter’s hands in time and it was Troy’s turn to celebrate.
UAB was an abysmal 7-22 at the free throw line while Troy shot 83 percent from the stripe.
Hicks recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists while adding three blocks for good measure.
Varnado scored 51 points between the two games, bringing his average up to 17.5 points per game.
Troy is now 6-5 on the season with one more game left before conference play begins. The Trojans will host Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Dec. 29. The Lions are 3-8 and sit at No. 329 in the latest KenPom rankings.