Seeing Michigan State coach Tom Izzo in attendance at Thursday’s game didn’t bother James Young much. He just played his game.
And his game was a clutch game-winner in overtime to help Troy stay afloat in the league race.
“I just tried not to think about it and play my game,” Young said of Izzo’s appearance. “Let the offense come to me.”
Young scored 30 points and 18 rebounds as Troy overcame a rough second half to top Oak Park in overtime on Senior Night, 68-65.
Izzo saw Young play live in a Troy uniform for the first time, and the junior certainly didn’t disappoint the coach early on. Young’s first half included 24 points, 10 rebounds, seven steals, and three assists as Troy took a 44-31 lead.
The second half brought trouble, sending Troy into a surprise extra session against the upset-minded Knights.
After Young torched them in the first half, the Knights came out and double-teamed Young aggressively, not allowing the star anything easy. Oak Park ran a lot of 2-3 zone, but kept extra eyes on Young the whole time. Troy took some open looks from 3, but couldn’t knock them down.
Young shot 0-for-10 in the second half, but still finished with 30 points, 18 rebounds, eight steals, four assists, and two dunks.
Once he got to OT, Young got the job done as he has all year. He scored six of Troy’s seven, including the game-winner. After Oak Park traveled with 30 seconds left, Young drove in and made the basket plus a foul.
“I saw everybody creeping up, so I went backdoor,” Young said. Junior point guard Zak Noor added that he has a silent signal with Young and junior Joe Leonard.
“He ran the floor and we made eye contact,” Noor added.
He also stole a pass on the ensuing possession, ran out the clock, and breathed a sigh of relief.
“I wasn’t out here to back down,” Young said. “I come out here every day to play.”
Troy went into Oak Park’s gym on Jan. 31 and shot haplessly from the foul line and still beat up the Knights, 63-42. But Oak Park had stunner on its mind from the get-go, taking a 7-0 lead early.
Troy’s ice-cold shooting killed the Colts in the second half as they scored only eight points in the third quarter and allowed Oak Park to climb back in the game.
“We were just forcing it,” senior Larry Sylvester said. “We weren’t taking our time; we weren’t moving the ball. We were too eager to blow them out, and they were playing well and we didn’t adjust.”
Troy shot just 4-for-26 from the arc.
“We just took the first shot,” Young added. “We needed to pass the ball around.”
It took Troy more than five minutes to score in the third quarter—by that time, Oak Park led by one, and the teams were in for a dogfight.
Because of the second-half lapse, Troy coach Gary Fralick wasn’t as pleased with the effort as he was in the previous few games.
“It was below what it has been,” Fralick said. “We didn’t have as much bounce in our step. It’s understandable, but it was well below average in the third quarter, and we paid for it.”
Troy wraps up the regular season next week at Auburn Hills Avondale (Tuesday) and Rochester Adams (Thursday), still tied with Ferndale atop the league standings. The district tournament is the following week.