Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has a music degree from Ohio State University.

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They could not withstand success.  Troy squanders a first half lead and wilts under Tipp’s second half pressure to lose their ninth of the season.

Troy – Make no mistake.  First-year coach Marcus Bixler has another good Tippecanoe basketball team.

Different from Tipp teams of the past, yes.  But another good blend of athletes, desire, and a never-say-die attitude.

It was never more prevalent than Friday at the Trojan Activity Center.  Spotting Troy a first quarter lead, and a first half advantage of as much as ten points, Tipp made Troy see “red” for the final four minutes of the second quarter…and the final 16 minutes of the game, outscoring the Trojans 51-34 to notch their sixth win of the season 66-59.

Particularly galling for Troy coach Tim Miller, who once again saw his team “play in spurts”.  And yet, they had ’em right where they wanted them with a 15-5 lead after the opening quarter.

“They hurt us with their pressure and their depth.  No doubt about it,”  said a disconsolate Miller afterwards.  “They made plays.  We didn’t.  We played well for the first quarter.  We ran our offense and made some shots (8 of 13 for the half, 61%), and then we just got away from it.  We continue to play well in spurts and that’s frustrating.  But we’d better figure it out quick.  We’re halfway through this thing now and we’re running out of time and season.”

Offensively you can make the point of Miller and the Trojans having made progress over previous games.  Three players reached double figures, Tyler Miller (20), Jalen Nelson and Tre Hudson (12 each).  In all six different players scored.

Big Off The Bench…Tipp’s Sean Ford led all scorers with 15 points in a reserve role. “He was fearless to take the ball to the hoop,” said teammate Nick Fisher.

But without question the pace of the game and Tipp’s second half pressure defense simply wilted Troy’s focus, forcing numerable turnovers (9) and converting 14 second-half points off those turnovers.

“At halftime we talked about the tempo of the game,”  said Marcus Bixler.  “The tempo wasn’t where we wanted it to be.  Our big advantage every night is playing our nine guys.  If we can’t get the ball up and down the floor it doesn’t benefit us having those nine guys.”

“Our depth is a big advantage for us,”  said senior Nick Fisher, the Dave Arbogast Buick Star of The Game.  “Sean Ford coming off the bench for us tonight with 15 point was huge.  He’s fearless and he’s never scared to take the ball to the hoop.  We need guys like that and we have them.  It’s huge for us.”

In his first year at Tipp after the departure of Matt Pond and his move to Covington, Bixler admits…he’s inherited anything but a depleted roster.

“We have kids here who can play.  They were fundamentally sound when I got here and they allow you to do some things throughout the game,”  said Bixler.  “We tried to change up our pressure and keep them off balance tonight and we did that.  I think our pace was a factor in our coming back in the second half.

“Our X’s and O’s are different than the past,” he said, comparing style of play to previous teams under Pond.  “I told the kids that we’ll get up and down the floor, and I don’t care if we take 70 shots a night…as long as we’re the best defensive team on the court.  Now we played harder the last sixteen minutes of tonight’s game, once we got the pace up.  I was very upset with our effort in the first half.  We didn’t defend well and allowed them to dribble through us.  We gave up too many uncontested layups and threes.”

The longer they played, the harder they played…the better they played.  Tipp shot 56% from the floor (27 of 48) for the game, but held Troy to just Troy to just 33% (8 of 24) for the second half.  Ford’s 15 points led all Red Devils scoring, while Austin Hadden joined him in double figures with 14.  Hadden’s three consecutive three-pointers in the third quarter (he had 9 points for the game) ultimately gave Tipp its first lead of the game.

“Austin caught fire for us at that point of the game and that was big,”  added Nick Fisher.  “This was a big game for us…a huge win.  First time we’ve played in 13 days, and after the loss to Tecumseh.  It definitely took us a while to get back in the groove after so many days off and without practice.  I was winded at the beginning.  I think I drank too much Mountain Dew during the time off.”

The Look…Troy’s Tim Miller glares after his team gave up the final points of the first half on a length-of-the-court layup by Tipp.

That being the case, Tim Miller might want a truckful of “Dew” delivered to practice.  His team’s propensity for sputtering with a lead and the momentum has become an all-too-familiar and unwelcomed attribute now through ten games.  Whether they run out of steam, or focus, their inability to sustain an effort has now cost them losses in four games in which they enjoyed first half leads.

“I felt pretty good about things and the way we started,”  said Miller as he prepared to leave the gym Thursday.  “But then we give up 21 points in the second quarter.  That’s a lot of points.  When we play hard and execute defensively it shows on the scoreboard.  When we don’t……that’s another story.

“When we take plays off we allow teams to get right back into the game.  We haven’t show the fortitude enough to be able to withstand that when we allow it to happen.  We allow them an easy layup the full length of the floor to end the first half.  And they allowed us to do the same thing a couple of times, but we don’t take advantage.  Their pressure bothered us quite a bit, and we don’t have the court recognition at this point to make basketball plays.”

Tipp improves to 6-1 with Thursday’s win.  Troy drops to 1-9.

And while Tipp is a good sound group, Marcus Bixler would tell you…they’re by no means a juggernaut at this time.  Not yet.  They’re biggest listed player goes about 6’3″ and there are no 20-point scorers.  They just play hard.

It makes Troy’s latest loss all the more frustrating for Tim Miller.  Tipp did make a lot of basketball plays when they were down, and you had to wonder if Miller didn’t close his eyes a couple of times and try to envision his team playing just like them…sans Tipp’s red road uniforms, of course.

He was already seeing red!

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