Varnado sinks game winner, Troy downs Eastern Illinois 70-67
TROY, Ala. (troytrojans.com) – Troy and Eastern Illinois fought a close battle to the end that was capped off with a Jordon Varnado jump shot with 3.4 seconds left to win at home 70-67.
Both teams got off to a slow start as six minutes into the game as Troy (2-0) led 9-6 with both teams shooting 33.3 percent from the floor with six combined turnovers.
Jordon Varnado got the Trojans going as the forward hit 7-of-9 shots in the first half—including a 3-pointer—to end the half with 15 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.
Despite active defense from Eastern Illinois (1-1), Troy stayed ahead by shooting 50 percent on 14-of-28 shooting in the first half compared to 27.6 percent shooting on 8-of-29 shooting for the Panthers.
The Trojans held the lead for most of the second half, but Eastern Illinois kept the game close the entire way. The Panthers got a team-high 18 points out of Montrell Goodwin, but limited the guard to 2-of-10 shooting.
Troy’s defense was able to keep the Panthers in check and never allowed them to get out ahead. The Trojans led for 35:25 of the game and the largest lead for the Panthers on the night was a five-point lead with 11:19 left in the first half. Eastern Illinois did not lead at any point of the second half.
With 2:47 left in the game, Troy had a five-point lead thanks to two free throws from Alex Hicks, but Eastern Illinois refused to go away. A free throw and a 3-pointer by Cornell Johnston brought the score to within one with 1:59 left.
A free throw by Daniel Peace put the Trojans up 67-65 with: 47 left to play, but the Panthers didn’t falter as Goodwin hit a jumper with 24 seconds left off a hectic play to tie the game.
From there, the Trojans went back to who carried the team on the night. Peace held the ball at the top of the key before dishing to Varnado, who knocked down the winner with 3.4 seconds on the clock. B.J. Miller hit one free throw after being fouled. Eastern Illinois’ desperation heave on the ensuing play fell short as time expired.
“We knew going into the game it was going to be a tough, hard-nosed, physical, grind-out type of game,” head coach Phil Cunningham said. “We got the lead in the first half after playing a zone, but in the second half they got back in the game. They guard you and they don’t give you anything easy on the offensive end. They’re just really patient in that offensive they run and it kind of wore us down. They got back in the game and we would try to hold them off and they’d come back. It’s interesting how it came down to that last play.”
Stat of the Game
Troy had two players earn a double-double on the night. Varnado finished with 22 points—four shy of his career-high—and added 10 rebounds and two blocks to finish with a plus/minus of plus 14 on the evening. Alex Hicks was a defensive centerpiece on the night, as he led the Trojans with 11 rebounds, five of which were offensive, and added 10 points.
It took until the last field goal of the night for Troy to put Eastern Illinois away for good. Despite only trailing for 3:14 of game time—all in the first half—the Panthers never let the Trojans lead by more than 11. Eastern Illinois opened up the second half by scoring five quick points to Troy’s one to cut the lead to five.
• The game marked the first time in Wesley Person’s career that he did not make a 3-pointer, ending the longest active streak in the nation of consecutive 3-pointers. Person finished with 14 points and was 0-for-2 from behind-the-arc.