TROY, Ala. — There were few surprises in East Tennessee State’s basketball game against Troy on Tuesday night. The Trojans were deadly enough from 3-point range and the Bucs struggled from the free throw line.
With six players making 3-point baskets, Troy led the entire way in defeating ETSU 79-71 in a non-conference game.
While the Trojans were making 12 3-pointers, the Bucs had a lot of trouble from much closer. They made only 12 of 21 free throws, helping Troy maintain its lead.
ETSU came into the game shooting 59 percent from the free throw line, last in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Troy came in shooting 41 percent from 3-point range, second in the Sun Belt.
The Trojans finished 12 for 35 from long range, lower than their season percentage, but many of them changed momentum as the Bucs continually tried to claw their way back into the game.
ETSU committed 20 turnovers.
“We just couldn’t get over the hump,” ETSU coach Murry Bartow said. “Twenty turnovers on the road just reduces your ability to win the game. We just didn’t have it tonight. Troy really controlled the game. We had our chances, but never could get the game even.”
Troy (3-3) led by as many as 15 points in the second half before Adam Sollazzo got hot. Sollazzo scored 19 points, making 3 of 4 from 3-point range in the second half.
It wasn’t enough, though, and the Bucs’ three-game winning streak came to an end as they fell to 3-2. It was the second game in a six-game road swing.
Sheldon Cooley led ETSU with 20 points. Isiah Brown had 11 points and 15 rebounds, but he was the biggest culprit from the line, going 3 for 11. Marcus Dubose, who was announced as the A-Sun player of the week earlier in the day, went 2 for 13 from the field and was held to six points.
Will Weathers, Troy’s point guard, made four of the 3-pointers and finished with 14 points and seven assists. He missed the previous meeting, ETSU’s 81-71 victory earlier this month, with an ankle injury.
Justin Wright led the Trojans with 15 points. Emil Jones had 14 and R.J. Scott had 10.
The Bucs knew Troy would come out firing 3-pointers and the Trojans didn’t disappoint. They made 6 of their first 10 shots from long range to jump out to a 24-16 lead.
Troy, which had been averaging better than 10 3-pointers a game, then missed its next seven but still managed to increase its lead. The Trojans led by 10 points before settling for a 35-28 halftime advantage.
ETSU got within four points midway through the second half when Tommy Hubbard made a steal and was fouled hard while making a layup. Hubbard was forced to leave the game, leaving Troy to pick who would shoot the free throw for the Bucs. To nobody’s surprise, Brown was chosen. He had made 2 of 8 at that point and offered up an airball, leaving the score 46-42 with 10:50 left. Alan Jones, Troy’s 3-point specialist, then connected on a bomb to make it 49-42.
ETSU got it back down to four again with 81â„2 minutes left on a couple of free throws from Sollazzo.
Each time the Bucs seemed ready to cut the deficit further, Troy would make another 3-pointer. Emil Jones’ first 3 of the game put the Trojans up 62-52 with 5:14 remaining.
Wright and Jones hit back-to-back 3-pointers with four minutes left to seal the deal.
The Bucs shot 48 percent from the field and outrebounded Troy 37-35. The Trojans shot 41 percent.
The trip to Troy wasn’t as easy as expected for the Bucs. After a four-hour delay at the Tri-City Airport, the team finally took off for Atlanta. That was followed by a two-hour delay in Georgia. When they finally arrived in Troy, their luggage did not. Several more hours passed until the bags showed up, getting the team to its hotel after midnight.
The Bucs’ road trip continues Thursday with their A-Sun opener at Stetson. They also play at Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday.