By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Most NIT teams deal with some level of disappointment, and the first-round opponent for Ole Miss is no different.
Troy University didn’t sit by the television on Selection Sunday hoping for an at-large bid. Those aren’t typically extended in the Sun Belt Conference.
The Trojans, winners of the Sun Belt regular-season title, knew they lost more than a conference tournament championship when their seven-game win streak was snapped against the University of North Texas, 66-63, on March 9.
The Trojans (20-12) have five senior starters, two with SEC experience, who were within seconds of the NCAA tournament. Long-time Troy coach Don Maestri believes they’ll be able to put the disappointment to bed.
“I think our team is very excited,” head coach Don Maestri said. “It’s an honor to be in postseason play. Obviously, it’s an honor to be in the top 90-plus teams in the country and we look forward to competing in this tournament.
“It’s a tremendous honor for our university, our program and our players.”
Troy’s regular season title earned it an automatic bid to the NIT.
The Trojans went 1-1 against the SEC in the regular season, losing 80-58 at Florida and winning 81-77 at Auburn – the school’s first win over its nearby in-state rival.
Guard Brandon Hazzard leads the team with 16.6 points a game. Former Mississippi State player Richard Delk has been an effective scorer with dribble-penetration and adds 12.2 points a game.
The Trojans’ starting five accounts for roughly 80 percent of their scoring.
The NIT appearance is the second for the Trojans, but the first since 2004 when it lost to Niagara in the first round.
Ole Miss and Troy have met six times previously, the most recent a 106-72 Ole Miss win in 2007.
“I’ve watched them over the course of the season, they are very athletic,” Maestri said. “They play four guards. They’ve got a good inside guy. They are well-coached. Andy Kennedy has done a heck of a job with the Ole Miss program, and we know we are in for a challenge.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Troy at Ole Miss
– TV: None.
– Radio: Ole Miss Network.
– Series: Ole Miss leads 6-0.
– Last year: Ole Miss 102-76 in Oxford in 2007.
– Coaches: Ole Miss – Andy Kennedy (103-62, fifth year; 82-49, fourth year at Ole Miss); Troy – Don Maestri (477-335 28th season at Troy)
n Notes: Chris Warren has hit a 3-pointer in 41 straight games, tied with former Ole Miss player Aaron Harper for the school record and the fifth-longest such streak in SEC history. … Ole Miss is 10-8 in eight previous NIT appearances, 8-1 in NIT home games. Freshman forward Reggie Buckner needs four blocked shots to tie the school record of 56. … Troy coach Don Maestri is a New Orleans native, a Southern Miss graduate and former Mississippi State assistant.
Ole Miss (21-10)
F – Murphy Holloway 6-7 So. 9.8 ppg 7.6 rpg
G – Chris Warren 5-10 Jr. 17.2 ppg 3.4 apg
G – Terrico White 6-5 So. 14.4 ppg 4.5 rpg
G – Zach Graham 6-6 Jr. 9.0 ppg 3.3 rpg
F – DeAundre Cranston 6-9 Sr. 3.7 ppg 4.1 rpg
Top reserves: F Reggie Buckner, G Trevor Gaskins, F Terrence Henry.
F – Antywan Jones 6-5 Sr. 8.9 ppg 5.2 rpg
C – Yamene Coleman 6-9 Sr. 10.2 ppg 7.8 rpg
G – Brandon Hazzard 6-2 Sr. 16.2 ppg 2.0 rpg
G – Michael Vogler 6-0 Sr. 11.9 ppg 5.6 apg
G – Richard Delk 6-4 Sr. 12.2 ppg 4.7 rpg
Top reserves: G Vernon Taylor, C Bernard Toombs, F Levan Patsatsia