By Josh Brown
TROY — It was easy for Troy boys basketball coach Paul Bremigan to nail down what went wrong at the beginning of Friday’s matchup against Xenia.
“They shot the ball well, and we turned it over. That was the whole difference in that first four minutes,” he said. “We had a bunch of turnovers and they made shots. When that happens, you’re going to be down 18-3.”
Xenia hits its first five 3-point attempts in the game’s first 4:30, while the Trojans turned the ball over seven times during the same stretch and fell behind early. And while Troy was able to play even the rest of the way — even cutting the lead to single digits briefly late — it was never able to recover from that opening span of time in a 72-57 loss Friday night in Greater Western Ohio Conference American League crossover play at the Trojan Activities Center.
It’s been a tough stretch for Troy (5-10, 3-7 GWOC American North Division), which snapped a four-game losing streak with a 73-39 win at West Carrollton Tuesday. The Trojans have been shorthanded and dealing with various injuries and sicknesses throughout that stretch.
“We’ve got some injuries and illness, and we’ve just got to get healthier. I think that’s a big thing for us right now,” Bremigan said. “Once we do that and get everybody on the same page, we’ve only got seven games left. We’ve got to make them all count.”
And then into town riding a five-game winning streak came the Buccaneers (10-5, 6-4 GWOC American South), who eliminated Troy from last year’s sectional tournament with an 88-60 win.
From the start, Xenia looked like a red-hot team.
Samari Curtis and Ricky Williams hit back-to-back 3s to give the Bucs a 7-0 lead, then a Xenia steal led to a 3 by Kobe Hughlett that made it 10-0 and forced a Troy timeout with 6:15 left in the first. Ryan McClurg put the Trojans on the board with a 3 of his own, but Curtis answered with a layup then Teandre’ Adams hit a 3 to make it 15-3. A free throw by Curtis and a steal and layup by Hughlett pushed the lead to 18-3, and a fifth straight 3, this one by Adams, gave the Bucs their biggest lead at 23-5 before jumpers by McClurg and Devon Larger got Troy back to within 14 at 23-9 at the end of the quarter.
Troy had seven turnovers in the quarter and only 11 more in the rest of the game, and Xenia only hit one more 3 the rest of the way.
“We had seven turnovers in about the first four and a half minutes — and 18 for the game, against a pretty good defensive team,” Bremigan said. “We were concerned about the full-court pressure, but then we’d beat the pressure and turn it over in the half court.
“We didn’t get hurt on the boards, either. We’ve been doing that a lot lately. We’ve been winning the battle of the boards, and we shoot the ball pretty well from the field — we just don’t get enough shots. We turn it over too much.”
Xenia led by as many as 20 in the second quarter, but the Trojans stayed within striking distance thanks to some big plays by Zion Taylor right before halftime. First, he was fouled while taking a 3-pointer and sank two of the free throws, then as the Bucs tried to work the ball around for the final shot, he stole it, took it in for a layup and drew a foul, converting a three-point play with one second on the clock to get Troy to within 38-23 at halftime.
The gap didn’t change much throughout the third quarter, though a 3 by Larger cut the deficit to 46-34 with 1:45 to go and Troy got a stop on defense, giving it a chance to cut the Xenia lead to 10. But a missed jumper and then a 3 by Adams the other way got the lead back up to 15, and Xenia led 51-36 going into the fourth.
The Trojans continued to fight throughout, finally cutting the lead to single digits at 54-45 on a tip-in putback by Keenan Kinnel. Troy remained that close at 56-47 before Xenia went on a brief 8-2 run, converting a couple of badly-timed turnovers to push its lead back out to 15 and not allowing the Trojans to cut back into it.
Three Trojans were in double figures on the day, one with a double-double. Taylor had a career-high 15 points and two assists to lead Troy, McClurg added 13 points and Zach Riechelderfer had his fifth double-double of the season — and second straight — with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Hayden Kotwica added eight points and five rebounds, Larger had five points, Kinnel had four points and six rebounds and Adam Gates had two points.
The Buccaneers, however, put five players in double figures. Curtis — who played in only his ninth game of the season — scored a game-high 22 points, Meechi Harris added 13 and Williams, Hughlett and Adams each scored 11.
The Trojans now begin a three-game road trip with a pair of GWOC American North Division rematches to start things off. Troy travels to Greenville Tuesday and Sidney o Feb. 3 before a non-league matchup at Miamisburg on Feb. 4 to cap it off.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.