By Josh Brown
TROY — Down by as many as 24 at one point, Troy launched a heated comeback attempt.
Controlling that heat, though, proved to be the Trojans’ undoing.
With Urbana leading 57-33 in the middle of the third quarter, the Troy basketball team turned up the pressure and tempo and went on a 14-0 run to get back into the game. The Trojans then cut the lead to single digits and got as close as five points in the fourth quarter, but a pair of technical fouls — two of the three Troy was hit with in the game — allowed the Hillclimbers to maintain control, and Urbana hit its free throws down the stretch once Troy was forced to foul to hold on for an 85-74 victory Tuesday at the Trojan Activities Center.
For Troy (2-4), it was simply a balancing act between keeping cool and getting fired up when trying to mount the big rally.
“We all have to do a better job of maintaining our composure,” Troy coach Paul Bremigan said. “Say the wrong thing to the wrong referee … I mean, everybody has their limitations and touching points, and evidently we touched theirs. There was no profanity, but I was one of them, too, and they hurt us. I told the guys in the locker room that we all have to do a better job of maintaining our composure.”
The first half, however, hurt the Trojans even more.
Urbana (5-3) took a 10-9 lead early on a putback by Levi Boettcher, then Jace Underwood converted a steal for a layup and, following another Troy turnover, Boettcher scored on an inbounds play to make it a 14-9 game. Troy’s Ryan McClurg ended the run with a 3, but three more Trojan turnovers — the last one with 1.9 seconds on the clock — led to three straight Hillclimber buckets to put Troy down 20-12 after one.
While the eight first-quarter turnovers hurt the Trojans, though, a cold shooting stretch mixed with being outrebounded 10-4 in the second did them in. Urbana went on a 12-0 run — including the first of the Trojans’ technicals on the night — to take a 35-16 lead and held a 17-point lead through most of the quarter before Eli Palmer hit a buzzer-beating 3 from half court to make the score 39-25 at the half.
“We just weren’t aggressive enough in the first half, and they just took it to us,” Bremigan said. “They were aggressive to the boards, they were aggressive to everything, and when that happens … we’re just not doing a very good job on defense.
“We’ve got to fix that if we’re going to be successful. The bottom line is you can’t score 74, score in the 60s or 70s every night and not win.”
A 7-0 run by Urbana kicked off the second half, and a three-point play by Riley Emmons and a pair of free throws by Underwood later gave the Hillclimbers their biggest lead of the game at 57-34 — and that’s when the Trojans finally began to fight back and caught fire.
Palmer dished to Keenan Kinnel for a bucket inside, then McClurg tipped a steal to Zach Reichelderfer, who passed ahead to McClurg for a fast break layup to cut the lead to 57-37. After a McClurg free throw and a Reichelderfer jumper cut the lead even further, Reichelderfer scored a tough putback on his own miss, drew a foul and missed the free throw — only to have Zion Taylor grab the rebound and hit a jumper to make the score 57-44. The Trojan full-court press forced another turnover on the inbounds pass, which also forced an Urbana timeout with 1:29 left in the third.
Reichelderfer converted a three-point play on the ensuing inbounds pass to cut Urbana’s lead to 10 before Kalen Howell finally ended the 14-0 run with a bucket in transition for Urbana. Reichelderfer added one last basket before the buzzer, though, and Troy went into the fourth trailing 59-49.
After Urbana got the first bucket of the quarter, McClurg answered with a long 3 to get the lead to single digits for the first time since the first half. The Hillclimbers got the lead back up to 14, but a step-back jumper by McClurg, a steal and a McClurg 3 in transition got it back down to nine. Reichelderfer then scored a putback to get Troy to within seven at 68-61 with 3:02 remaining — only to have a technical foul called on Troy’s bench on the same play. Underwood, who had hit the technical free throws in the first half, sank both to push the lead back to nine.
A three-point play by Kinnel with 1:50 to play got Troy within five at 72-67, but Urbana pushed it to nine again. McClurg hit a jumper and drew a foul — but Troy was also hit with another technical on the play. McClurg missed his free throw and Underwood hit both to keep the Hillclimber lead at nine at 78-69 with 1:06 to go, and, with the Trojans forced to continue fouling, Underwood hit six more free throws to help seal the win.
More than half of Underwood’s game-high 30 points came from the free throw line, as he hit all six technical free throws and went 16 for 18 — and Urbana went 24 for 27 as a team. Howell added 18 point and eight rebounds, Boettcher had 16 points and eight rebounds and Emmons scored 12 points.
McClurg scored 20 of his team-high 27 points in the second half for the Trojans, with 15 of those coming in the fourth quarter alone. Reichelderfer scored 11 of his career-high 20 points in the third quarter and posted his second double-double of the season with 10 rebounds, Keenan Kinnel finished with 11 points, Taylor added seven points and five rebounds, Hayden Kotwica had four points and six rebounds, Palmer had three points and Brenden Kinnel had two points.
“The best way for this team to compete and win, I think, is for us to run,” Bremigan said. “We’ve got the kids that can run, and we’ve got the depth. Tonight, we got hurt inside in the first half. The second half is more what we want to do, but we had to send them to the line, and they made their free throws.”
The Trojans have a makeup game Thursday night at Springfield Shawnee then return home to host Bellefontaine on Jan. 3, 2017.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.