By Josh Brown
TROY — Friday night, Troy was able to rally from a big deficit to defeat Butler.
Against a defense like Tippecanoe’s, though? That’s a taller order.
The Red Devils — which only allowed a combined 99 points in its three victories this week — held the Trojans’ post players in check all night and kept Troy’s dangerous senior point guard Romello Yaqub from getting to the basket, and Tippecanoe did just enough on offense throughout the game to hold on for a 50-41 victory Saturday, completing a sweep of the Trojans as basketball returned to Hobart Arena for Troy’s “100 Years of Basketball” celebration.
The 41 points was the second-lowest total of the season for Troy (6-14) — they scored 39 twice, in losses to Trotwood and Sidney. And oddly enough, it was the most Tippecanoe (13-7) has given up during its three-game winning streak, including a 39-26 win at Urbana and a 45-32 win at Bellefontaine.
“I’m really proud of the effort,” Tippecanoe coach Joel Visser said. “A good win on the road at Urbana Tuesday, beating Bellefontaine twice in a season for the first time since 2009, and now coming in here to a neutral site but with a lot of Troy fans, we played tough. This was a huge, huge win for us.”
Particularly given that the Devils only won three games last season — but now, in Visser’s first year, they’re likely to get the top seed in the Division II Springfield sectional draw Sunday.
“It’s all the kids,” Visser said. “As a staff, we’ve been trying to get them to buy into the system, which is defense. If we play defense, don’t let them score, win on the glass and protect the basketball, we’re going to beat a lot of teams.”
Troy, meanwhile, couldn’t maintain the momentum gained from Friday night’s come-from-behind victory at Butler, scoring just enough to hang around the entire game but not being able to capitalize when it needed to — especially from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, going 1 for 7 in the fourth and 6 for 13 in the game.
“We just didn’t execute on offense the way we wanted to,” Troy coach Paul Bremigan said. “We were pretty much non-existent in the post, and that really hurt us.
“We didn’t shoot real well from the line, but we also didn’t get to the line often. When you’re getting the ball inside, you’re going to go to the line. But when you don’t get it inside, when you don’t get to the basket or when you’re not strong enough to go up with a shot — we didn’t deserve to get to the line tonight. We had a height advantage inside, and we didn’t take advantage of it.”
Troy’s Ryan McClurg opened the game with a 3, but the Devils — experts at slowing games down — scored the next eight points and never relinquished the lead once. Nathan Shirley hit a pair of first-half 3s, including one in the second quarter to answer after Troy had closed to within 18-17, and the Devils held a slim 25-21 lead at the break.
“They do a good job of what they do,” Bremigan said of Tippecanoe. “I thought defensively we did well for the first 15-to-20 seconds of possessions in the first half. But after about 15 seconds, we’d have a breakdown and they’d hit a 3. They took advantage of a lot of our mistakes like that in the first half.
“Then in the second half, they didn’t shoot as well — but we shot worse. There’s no easier way to say that.”
The teams both combined for only nine points in the first four minutes of the third quarter, when back-to-back fast break layups by Trey Bucio got the Trojans to within one again at 28-27. But Shirley hit another 3 one minute later to make it 31-27, and a series of free throws by both teams made the score 32-29 Tippecanoe entering the fourth.
Prall hit a 3 to start the final quarter, Shirley scored on a drive and then hit another bucket inside after an offensive rebound by Zach Bonifas, a seven-point run that took more than two-and-a-half minutes off the clock and gave the Devils their biggest lead of the game at 39-29.
The Trojans got back into the game — but could have closed the gap even farther if they hit free throws. Keenan Kinnel hit a 3 but couldn’t convert a chance at a four-point play, then Austin Persinger scored in transition but couldn’t make it a three-point play, still getting Troy back to within five. A free throw by Yaqub cut the gap to 39-35 with four minutes to play — and while the Devils struggled from the line in the fourth, too, they made up for it in other ways as Carter Mann scored a putback on a missed front end of a one-and-one to make it 41-35 Tippecanoe with 3:30 to go.
Troy went 1 for 7 from the line in the first four minutes of the fourth, not getting back there the rest of the game. The Devils went 0 for 5 during that time, though, until Mann hit one of two with 1:14 to play to make it 42-35 Tippecanoe. Troy was forced to foul and send the Devils to the line from there, and though Tipp finished 9 for 18 in the fourth and 15 for 27 in the game — and Estevan Stafford hit a pair of 3s in the final minute to keep Troy alive — it proved to be just enough.
“We tell the kids that we have to win on the glass, have less than 12 turnovers and, well, we’ve shot 70 percent from the line so far this season. But we didn’t shoot well tonight,” Visser said. “We’ve got to make our shots from the line.”
Shirley led Tippecanoe with 13 points, hitting three of the team’s five 3s, and Prall finished with 11 points, going a perfect 4 for 4 from the free throw line. Mann added nine points and eight rebounds, Zach Wildermuth and Bonifas had seven points each and Adam Grieshop added three points and seven rebounds.
“It was Shirley tonight. Last night, it was Bonifas and Carter,” Visser said. “Jakob has led us, Wildermuth was in double figures three games straight — it’s somebody different every night. Our philosophy is that if we can take care of the basketball and push it in transition, we’re going to score enough. But we play defense first.”
Yaqub led all scorers with 15 points for Troy, making all six of the Trojans’ free throws. McClurg, Stafford and Kinnel each hit two 3s and scored six points, Bucio finished with four points and Zach Reichelderfer and Persinger each had two points and five rebounds.
Both teams finish the regular season with a pair of home games this week — Troy hosts Sidney Tuesday and Piqua Friday, while Tippecanoe hosts Springfield Shawnee Friday and Northwestern Saturday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.