Coming off a blowout win over Piedmont College, the Troy Trojans were looking for a test before a weekend game at Florida – enter NAIA team William Carey University.
The Crusaders, who entered the game averaging 94.5 points per game in its two season-opening wins and shooting better than 52 percent as a team, gave Troy the test it needed before the Trojans settled in for a 104-88 victory on Monday night in Trojan Arena.
“This was a good game for us to win,” head coach Don Maestri said. “[William Carey] is the most talented team we have played. They have a lot of division I players. The have guys that can score inside, shooters, athletes.
“This is the best basketball we have played so far. We played with great intensity.”
ULM transfer Drew Meyerchick netted 23 points and former Southern Miss player Brandon Cooks scored 23 as the Crusaders pushed Troy until late in the fourth quarter.
William Carey came out firing in the second half and Cooks’ score with 15:29 remaining continued a 17-8 run that left the Crusaders just 10 points back of Troy.
The Trojans (2-0) thrust their lead back out to 16 points with a put-back by Yamene Coleman and a 3-pointer in transition by Vernon Taylor. Coleman set a new career high with 20 points and narrowly missed his first double-double as a Trojan with eight rebounds.
The Crusaders (2-1) refused to go away converting an 8-2 run up to the 4:50 mark cutting into Troy’s lead once more, but Hazzard answered for the Trojans with baskets on consecutive possessions including a three-point play to make it 95-80 with 3:54 left.
Hazzard and Trayce Macon both sank pairs of free throws down the stretch and Taylor added a breakaway lay-up to ice the win.
One of those shots from the foul line pushed the Trojans over the 100-point mark for the second consecutive game. It marked the first time that Troy had accomplished the feat since the 1993-94 season, the first year the Trojans were a member of Division I.
That season Troy scored 124 points against Chicago State and 111 points against Selma in consecutive wins. The teams also broke the triple-digit mark earlier that year in four consecutive contests going 3-1 in the stretch with wins over Prairie View A&M, Loyola and Mississippi Valley State coupled with a loss to Delaware.
The two squads traded baskets up to the first media timeout of the game with Troy holding a 14-10 lead. The Trojans then went on a 14-5 run over the next 2:05 to push their lead to 28-15.
Macon swatted a Daniel Huggins lay-up attempt, then found Hazzard on an outlet pass. Taylor finished the fast break opportunity with a lay-in for two capping a 19-8 Trojans run over the final 5:37 of the second half that left them in control 54-35 at the half.
Hazzard led all scorers with 20 at the break. He finished the game with 29 points and a career-high 10 rebounds for his first career double-double.
For the second straight game, Troy had a multi-faceted offensive attack. Joining Coleman and Hazzard in double-digits were Michael Vogler with 16 points, Macon with 15 and Taylor with 14. Vogler had a solid all-around night also chipping in seven rebounds and nine assists.
Troy also continued its aggression on the glass, out-rebounding WCU 48-35. In addition to the solid nights on the boards by Hazzard and Coleman, Richard Delk grabbed nine rebounds.
“We have guys really going after the ball better right now,” Maestri said. “Yamene [Coleman], Vernon Taylor, Levan [Patsatsia], Mike Vogler is deceptive with how he gets after rebounds. Richard Delk is a very good rebounder. Brandon did a good job tonight of going after the ball.”
Troy is in action next on Friday when it travels to Gainesville, Fla. to face SEC foe Florida. Tip-off is set for 6 pm CST and the game will be televised on Sun Sports and Fox Sports Florida. Check your local listings for more information.