HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – The Troy women’s basketball team never gave up and used great defense to erase a 15-point deficit in a 62-49 win over South Alabama in the first round of the Sun Belt Women’s Basketball Championships on Friday.
Troy (7-23) trailed 28-13 with just over five minutes to go in the first half, but closed the frame on an 11-0 run and dominated the second half. The 49 points allowed are the fewest by Troy this season as the Trojans held the Jags to under 20 percent (7-of-36) shooting in the second half.
Senior Sarah McAppion led the Trojans with her fourth double-double of the season, scoring 17 points with 10 rebounds. Brooke Bowie sparked the Trojans second-half performance, scoring all nine of her points and pulling down 10 of her 11 rebounds in the deciding frame.
“We knew we had to fight back as underdogs to stay alive in this tournament,” Troy head coach Chanda Rigby said. “We came here in underdog mode, which we pretty much have been all year, we’ve gotten good at it. We’re thankful to get the win against a very good South Alabama team that has beat us twice already this year.”
The win is Trojans first ever in Hot Springs and just their third in Sun Belt Championship play, the first since 2009. The loss snapped a streak of seven-straight wins in tournament openers for South Alabama (17-13).
The 10th-seeded Trojans now face the tournament’s second seed and West Division winner UALR in the quarterfinals on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 2:30 p.m. at Summit Arena and the game will be televised on the CSS/CST through the Sun Belt Network.
A Dominique Ross jumper started the 11-0 run that the Trojans finished the first half on, leading to a 28-24 halftime deficit for Troy. Both sides came out cold in the second half, but once Troy pulled even at 30-30 with 14:53 to go, the Trojans never looked back.
A 12-4 run put the Trojans up by eight with less than 10 minutes to go as the Trojans pushed their lead to as many as 15 points down the stretch. Bowie keyed the run as she grabbed six offensive rebounds over that span, deflating the Jaguars.
“Offensive rebounding,” McAppion said of what turned things around. “If you don’t make a shot and you get an offensive rebound, that gets the other team down. We just tried to get every offensive rebound we could and we knew eventually we would start hitting some shots, so that’s really how we got back in the game.”
South Alabama was led by Mansa El who scored 14 points while Brianna Wright and Veronica Cherizol each pulled down double-digit rebounds. The smaller Troy team outrebounded South Alabama 52-44 on the day.
Troy held South Alabama to 26.6 percent (17-of-64) shooting overall and 28.0 percent (7-of-25) from deep. USA hit 6-of-11 3-pointers in the first half, but Troy’s pressure defense led to just 1-of-14 from deep for the Jags in the final frame.
The Trojans began applying pressure when they were down by 15, and ultimately forced 20 South Alabama turnovers while staying in a full court press the remainder of the game.
The win for Troy avenges two losses this season to South Alabama, including an emotional 71-70 loss just six days ago in Troy. It also snapped a five-game losing streak against the Lady Jags that dated back to the 2010-11 season.
Troy and UALR have met twice this year, with UALR winning both games. However, the two have not played in over two months with the last meeting coming on January 5.