Troy basketball is thinking “green” going into tonight’s game against Alabama.
Green, as in the five starters the Trojans had to replace from last year’s Sun Belt Conference championship team.
Green, as in JaMychal Green, Alabama’s 6-foot-8 inside presence who Trojans coach Don Maestri called “not just one of the best at his position in the SEC, but one of the best in the country.”
And green, as in, conserve your resources. For while the Trojans love to push the pace and fly up and down the court, so does second-year coach Anthony Grant’s Crimson Tide. Maestri, in his 29th season at Troy, said he may apply the brakes a bit.
“We probably don’t want to run with Alabama,” Maestri said. “They’ve got a very, very good speed game. I watched them play. They’ve got great athletes. ... I don’t think we want to be in a track meet and stay in the game with them. We’ll have to play a little smarter and eat up a little more clock.”
Both teams are 1-0 after impressive opening victories on Friday night. Alabama crushed Florida A&M 76-37 and Troy routed Huntingdon 100-59, shooting better than 55 percent from the floor.
“I know Troy has a lot of new faces, but I’m really impressed with their system.” Grant said Sunday. “From an offensive standpoint, they’ll challenge us in terms of how we defend.
“... They’re going to attack and try to play in transition. They’re a team that plays a lot of zone so we have to make sure we do a good job of being patient offensively and do a good job of working the ball inside-to-out.”
Maestri said tonight’s game is “the real world” for the Trojans. The reality is, he said, is that Alabama has more talent than his team. Four starters are back, including Green, a junior, and senior guard Senario Hillman, who had four steals, raising his career total to 130.
“The Hillman kid’s got quicker hands than Jesse James,” Troy’s coach said.
Alabama also welcomed back Charvez Davis, who missed much of the preseason recovering from hernia surgery. Davis is a 3-point-shooting specialist who hit 41 percent from the field last season. He made three 3-pointers in the opener.
Troy guard Regis Huddleston, who made 5-of-8 3-pointers against Huntingdon, said the Trojans are eager to play Alabama.
“We’re really looking forward to it,” said the senior from Bay Springs, Miss. “We had it marked on our calendar since it came out. Me being from Mississippi, I don’t like Alabama, anyway.”
Alabama’s Travis Releford became just the fourth true freshman to start at point guard in a season opener for the Tide. Releford joined Ennis Whatley (1982), Mo Williams (2002) and Ronald Steele (2005).
It was a milestone opening victory for Alabama, which became just the third SEC school (Kentucky and Arkansas) and 32nd Division I program to reach 1,500 wins.
The Tide already led 34-17 at halftime when they outscored FAMU 18-3 to start the second half.
“We have to come up with more energy in the first half and play like we did in the second half,” said Green, who led Alabama with 14 points. “If we do that we will make it easier for ourselves.”
Maestri said the Trojans will get better from this game whether they win or lose.
“The great thing about (playing) Alabama is our kids are going to learn a lot,” he said. “Because they’re going to face better players than them and they’ll face better players than some of the players in our league.
“For us, every opportunity to play in a real game should be a positive experience, no matter the outcome.”