By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — The Troy boys basketball team came into this season ready to prove a lot of things to a lot of people.
After Tuesday, even first-year coach Mark Hess has taken notice of one thing in particular — the way his Trojans can play defense.
“Coming into the season, I didn’t think defense was one of our strengths,” he said. “And I’ve just been floored by the effort and attention to detail we’ve given defensively.”
Tuesday was the Trojans’ biggest test yet, facing two-time defending division champion Butler. And it was also the Trojans’ most impressive effort to date as Troy held the Aviators to only 10 first-half points and 19 through the first three quarters, doing all the little things right in a 63-41 victory at the Trojan Activities Center to snap a five-game losing streak in a bitter Miami Valley League Miami Division rivalry.
“This is a big game, a big rivalry. We go at it every year,”said Troy senior Tre Archie, who led all scorers with 19 points on the night. “And they’ve beat us the past few years. But we knew this was our year this year. We’ve got good chemistry together. It feels great.”
Troy improved to 5-1 with the win, continuing its best start since going 7-1 to start the 2011-12 season, and holds a half-game lead in the MVL Miami standings over Tippecanoe with a 4-1 record. It was also the Trojans’ first win over Butler — which fell to 2-4 and 2-3 in division play — since a 61-59 win back on Dec. 16, 2016.
And in the end, everything boiled down to Troy’s performance on defense. The Trojans held Butler to 14 for 44 (31.8 percent) from the field — the Aviators’ worst shooting night of the year — and won the rebounding battle 28-16. As a result, Troy led 11-5 after the first quarter, held a solid 26-10 lead at halftime and a commanding 45-19 lead after three to put the game well out of reach.
“We were really good defensively in practice yesterday, too,” Hess said. “It’s amazing that when we start practicing, we play better. We’re starting to build those better habits, to understand where we need to be, and tonight, giving up 10 points in the first half and 19 after three, just an excellent job defensively.
“We did a great job as a team — it’s not just one guy. And we did a great job rebounding. We really limited them to one shot for the most part. But I’m just proud of the way we guarded. The guys have taken pride in their defensive effort. If we can guard and rebound like that, we can really make some noise.”
On the other end of the floor, Troy continued to spread the wealth around and was incredibly efficient scoring-wise. Archie and Jaden Owens each had seven points in the first half, while leading scorer Shaeden Olden was held to two first-half points but grabbed eight rebounds and dished out four assists, contributing in other ways.
All three ended up in double figures on the night. Archie hit three of the Trojans’ eight 3-pointers and finished with 19 points, Owens added 15 points and three assists and Olden had his third straight double-double with 13 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.
“We’re as good as we can be when we’re balanced,” Hess said. “A lot of our guys, their value is even more than points. Austin Stanaford and Elijah Reynolds influence the game with the way they guard. And Andrew Holley sets a good screen up top and is a big body to go around. The impact those guys have on other parts of the floor allow our scorers to score. It’s little things you don’t always see.”
And for a performance like that to come against an Aviator team known for its fundamental play and attention to the little things, Troy’s effort was a statement in and of itself.
“Butler has been really solid and fundamental, and tonight we were able to match that, and in the first half, beat them at their game,” Hess said.
A pull-up 3-pointer by Olden — made possible by a Holley screen — to end the third quarter gave the Trojans their biggest lead of the night at 26 points heading into the fourth. But Butler made its run to begin the final quarter, forcing eight Troy turnovers in the fourth and cutting the deficit to 16 points at 50-34 with less than four minutes to play.
But the Trojans answered with eight straight points, as Archie hit a pair of free throws then Stanaford, Olden and Owens each scored in transition after defensive stops to push the lead back to 58-34, and Troy put the game away from there.
“It feels good. It’s a great team win,” Hess said. “And for me, as a coach, when you do it on the defensive end, that’s more exciting.”
Stanaford added seven points and five rebounds, Landyn Henry had five points and Reynolds and Holley each scored two for the Trojans.
Tyler Montague led Butler with 15 points, Cooper Justice added nine, Quincy Rackley scored eight, Matthew Beverly chipped in four, Quinton Hall had three and Ryan Wilson scored two.
The Trojans aren’t done being tested quite yet, though. Friday night, Troy travels to Sidney to face the undefeated MVL Valley Division leader.
“We’ve got to do it again this Friday,” Archie said. “We’ve just got to execute.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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