Troy basketball coach Don Maestri doesn’t know a whole lot about tonight’s opponent, but six games into the season he has learned a lot about his own squad.
Filled primarily with a new cast of characters, Maestri has been pleased with the chemistry and progress the new-look Trojans have made.
Troy (4-2), winners of three straight, hosts UAB (3-3) Tuesday night at Trojan Arena beginning at 7. The Blazers have won all five of the previous meetings between the two.
“Here’s the good thing about this little basketball team,” Maestri said of the Trojans. “They’re not very talented, but we have a lot of guys who play. If you’re playing well, you already know you are playing longer. It really doesn’t make any difference to us who starts.
“We don’t really make any pre-planned decisions. We go with the flow of the game and if a guy is having a great night, he’s going to play more. It’s a pretty well balanced team.”
Guards Emil Jones (10.0) and Hunter Williams (10.8) lead the Trojans in what’s been a balanced scoring attack. Jones also leads the team in rebounds at 6.2 per game.
The Trojans are expected to start four guards – Jones, Williams, Antoine Myers and Deonata Jethroe, along with forward Ray Chambers.
“Obviously Emil (Jones) is the leader of the team and can hit big shots for us, but they all make contributions and they all play pretty hard on defense,” Maestri said.
Defensively, Troy has gone with a man-to-man approach this season and has held its opponents to an average of 64.2 points per game.
UAB is led by junior forward Rod Rucker, who averages 14.7 points per game and eight rebounds per contest, while junior forward Jordan Swing is just behind him at 13.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
The Blazers are coming off consecutive losses at the South Padre Island Invitational, losing to Illinois State and TCU.
“We have to guard the basketball,” first-year UAB coach Jerod Haase told al.com. “If we can keep our man in front of us, it will be a huge for us in the game.
“Another thing is that we have to be able to get the ball inside and we have to rebound well.”
After tonight’s game, the Trojans open Sun Belt Conference play on Thursday at Arkansas-Little Rock and then hosts Western Kentucky on Saturday.
“To be honest we’re probably a little further along offensively and defensively (than expected) because it’s a relatively new group,” Maestri said. “The thing about them that makes up for their lack of talent is their focus at practice. Their intensity. They work hard, really hard.
“It’s like that Josh (Warren, JUCO transfer) kid. He may be exhausted after three minutes because he’s going to play as hard as he can play and it carries over to the rest of the team – that same mentality of putting in a lot of effort and concentration on their defense. On offense they don’t take as many bad shots.
“And really we don’t turn the ball over as much as in the past. We had more turnovers (11 in a 66-62 win over Alabama State on Sunday) than we have had in any game this season. And most of that was in the first half.
“We didn’t have as many in the second half when you’re getting pressed and pressured and you can’t lose that ball. So I would say we’re a little ahead of where we expected.”