By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
VANDALIA — After the way the first half went, it was practically inevitable that frustration would boil over for the Troy boys basketball team.
But the Trojans can find some solace in the fact that they regained their composure late in Friday’s game against Butler — even if it was too late.
The Aviators cut an early 12-point Troy lead to just one at halftime and took control in a technical foul-filled third quarter Friday night at Butler’s Student Activities Center, leading by as many as 14 points. And while Troy was able to get itself back under control — and even get to within three points in the final 20 seconds — it couldn’t get over the hump and Butler sealed a 66-60 victory to earn a season split in an increasingly bitter Miami Valley League Miami Division rivalry.
“It’s going to happen. There’s going to be nights where things don’t go our way — but we can always control how we react,” Troy coach Mark Hess said. “We can’t control calls that are made, we can’t control missing or making shots, we can’t control them missing or making shots. But we can always control how we handle situations.”
Troy, which defeated Butler 63-41 in the first meeting this season at home, fell to 10-7 overall and 8-6 in the MVL Miami with the loss — falling two games behind division leader Tippecanoe, which routed Greenville 66-40 on Friday. Butler, meanwhile, improved to 10-8 and pulled into a second-place tie with Troy at 8-6 after its third win in its last four games.
And while the Trojans were able to capitalize on Butler missing its first six 3-point attempts, hitting four in a row themselves to take an early 14-2 lead, Troy simply couldn’t maintain that momentum.
Troy’s Tre Archie appeared to record another defensive stop with a rebound, but Butler’s Conner Buchanan knocked him out of the air and onto his back, forcing him to drop the ball. And with no whistle to stop the play, Buchanan scooped the ball up and laid it in to make the score 14-4 Troy after one — and that play set the tone for the rest of the half.
Butler bullied its way to a 21-14 edge on the glass in the first half, using physical play — and the fact that three of Troy’s starters were on the bench in foul trouble after the opening quarter — to halt the Trojan offense. And Tyler Montague knocked down three 3s and scored all 15 of his first-half points in the second quarter as the Aviators erased that early deficit and even took the lead briefly before a Shaeden Olden bucket put Troy up 26-25 at halftime.
“I thought what really hurt us was early on, when we were up 12 and were getting stop after stop, I just thought we stopped running our offense,” Hess said. “We got a little impatient. We came out, ran our offense, scored and scored — and then we pulled some quick shots and didn’t make them guard. We had some good looks and didn’t convert. But we could have been up 24 early and put them away, but we just didn’t. And that was tough. And then Montague got going, and when he gets going, he’s tough to guard.”
And after Matthew Beverly converted two three-point plays in the paint in a row — with an Olden bucket wiped out by a charging call in between — to take a 33-29 lead, the Trojans’ frustration simply got the better of them. Twice late in the third quarter, Troy players were hit with technical fouls for arguing calls on the floor, allowing Butler to balloon its lead to 48-34.
“It’s tough. When you’re in a heated environment playing a rivalry and things aren’t going your way at the time, it’s tough,” Hess said. “And boy, are you going to be tested. But we’ve got to do a better job of controlling our reactions.”
But Olden hit a 3 and scored a putback to finish the quarter with Troy only down 49-43. Montague continued to pour in points in the fourth, giving Butler a 61-51 lead with 57.2 seconds to go — but a taunting technical on Butler gave Troy another chance. Jaden Owens hit both free throws, and the Trojans began to foul to chip away at the Aviators’ lead, getting it all the way down to 63-60 with 16.4 seconds remaining.
But Butler’s Quinton Hall hit one of two free throws to make it a four-point game with 12 seconds left, and Montague grabbed a rebound on a missed 3-point try on the other end with 3.9 on the clock and sank his free throws to wrap it up.
“I’ll tell you what, I’m proud of the way these kids fought,” Hess said. “We were down 14, and to be honest, I thought we were dead in the water. But the kids regained some composure, got some stops and got it to a one-possession game. And you know, with that mush adversity and things not going our way, to get it there, I’m proud of that. Yeah, I want to win and I’m upset, but that shows some growth and maturity from us.”
Montague led all scorers with a career-high 35 points for Butler, and Beverly added 18 points — 16 in the second half. Hall had seven points, Nick Smith had two points and nine rebounds, Buchanan had two points and five rebounds and Ryan Wilson had two points as the Aviators outrebounded Troy 36-28 and were 16 for 21 from the free throw line in the game — including 9 for 12 in the fourth as Troy fouled to get back into it.
Olden led the Trojans with 26 points, hitting three of the team’s 10 3s on the night and adding 10 rebounds and three assists, Owens had 12 points and three assists and Landyn Henry hit three more 3s and had 12 points. Archie finished with six points, Austin Stanaford had two points and five rebounds and Andrew Holley had two points.
Things don’t get easier for Troy next week. The Trojans host Sidney — which they lose to in overtime on the road earlier this season — before the rematch at division leader Tippecanoe on Friday.
“Yes, we’re going to be tested — and it’s going to happen again Tuesday night,” Hess said. “Tuesday night’s not going to be any easier. We’ll be thrown right back to the wolves. So we’ll get another chance to improve on that.”
Contact Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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