Romello Yaqub scores 21, Austin Persinger adds 10 in lopsided season opener.
TROY — It took the Troy Trojans one game to play as good as they did all last season, and they hope it won’t take long to play better.
Troy started off the Paul Bremigan era with a 66-44 win over St. Marys Memorial on Saturday night at the Trojan Activities Center. The Trojans jumped out early and ran away late against the Roughriders, who were Div. II district runner-ups last year.
The 22-point win matched the largest margin Troy won by in its 6-17 campaign last season, which came in an early February defeat of 2-21 Butler.
“We’ve got a lot better (since last year),” senior guard Romello Yaqub said after the game. “We’ve been practicing harder, and the good thing about our team is we’re always there for each other and we’re unselfish basketball players.”
The Trojans flew up-and-down the courd the entire game and bothered St. Marys on defense. The Roughriders committed 14 turnovers and shot 37.5 percent from the field in the game.
The combination of Troy 6-4 forward Austin Persinger, 6-6 center Austin Funberburg and 6-8 center Mechia Linton were too much for shorter St. Marys to contend with inside. The trio clogged the post all night and brought down 11 of Troy’s 22 rebounds.
Troy committed 23 fouls in the game, which is one of the few things Bremigan wasn’t pleased with. But he thinks that’ll be easy to clean up as the season progresses.
“We did send people to the (foul) line too much, but I thought we did a nice job of being aggressive on defense,” Bremigan said. “I’m most happy with the 44 points we gave up. Keeping (opponents’ points) down is one of the things we’ve worked a lot on.”
Troy’s offense wasn’t bad either. The Trojans scored many points in the paint and knocked down three three-pointers. Yaqub led the team with 21 points, while Persinger added 10. Troy shot 29-of-51 (57 percent) from the field in the game. Eleven players scored for Troy in the game.
Yaqub is the Trojans’ starting point guard this year and did more than score. He had several assists in the game and brought down three rebounds on defense.
“I thought Romello played a great game,” Bremigan said. “He just controlled the game and played great. Everybody did a nice job around him. It’s good to get a win to get these guys some confidence.”
It was Bremigan’s first game as Troy’s head coach. He comes to Troy after spending the last 31 seasons at Russia, where he helped build the Raiders into one of the area’s best Div. IV programs. Yaqub likes playing for Bremigan and says his focus on conditioning helped the Trojans wear down St. Marys.
“Coach has been running us good,” Yaqub said. “We hope we can get some more wins the rest of the season because we’re in great shape already.”
Troy took command early. The Trojans led 11-2 midway through the first, but St. Marys went on an 8-6 run to finish the quarter. Troy led 33-23 at halftime. Derek Jay, an all-district player last season, kept the Roughriders in the game in the first half with 11 points, 9 of which came on three-pointers.
Troy pulled away by scoring the first 11 points of the third quarter.
Jay led St. Marys with 17 points and five rebounds. Bremigan said Troy rotated five different players against Jay on defense.
“That was good to see that we’ve got a lot of guys that can defend and stop a good player like Jay,” Bremigan said.
Persinger, Linton and Funderburg scored 18 points in the game for Troy. Bremigan hopes the Trojans can continue to utilize their height this season.
“They played pretty well tonight but they had some first-game problems,” Bremigan said. “We had them and one or two other guys, too, that were too anxious a few times. They were making a move (to the basket) before they caught a pass. But it’s the first game of the season and that happens. They all played pretty well throughout the game.”
St. Marys was the first of a stretch of tough opponents for Troy. The Trojans play Fairmont next Friday, host Fairborn on Dec. 8 and travel to Greenville on Dec.11. Fairmont and Greenville had 18 or more wins last year, and Fairborn was 13-10.
Yaqub said the team will try to play as good or better than they did on Saturday in every game this season.
“We have eight seniors on the team, and we just want to get it done and bring some wins for Troy,” Yaqub said.