Troy Women Storm Back in Second Half to Advance to Sun Belt Semifinals

NEW ORLEANS, La (  – The Troy women’s basketball team came alive in the second half and stormed back to beat South Alabama, 62-49, in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Championships at Lakefront Arena on Wednesday.  Troy will now make the first Sun Belt semifinal appearance in program history when it takes on Arkansas State on Friday.

Troy (18-12) shot just 21 percent in the first half, but only trailed by eight points, 29-21, at the break.  The Trojans, however, locked down defensively and allowed South Alabama to score just four points on 2-of-14 shooting in the third quarter, turning the halftime deficit into a 37-33 lead after three quarters.

The Trojans then forced South Alabama (15-15) into 11 turnovers in the fourth quarter and quickly extended the lead.  In all, Troy forced the Jaguars into 31 turnovers while tying a school record with 23 steals.

Claresa Banks led the Trojans with five steals and also scored 13 points of the bench.  She was one of four Trojans to score in double figures, led by 18 points from Ashley Beverly Kelley.  ArJae’ Saunders added 13 points and Caitlyn Ramirez added 11 points and 12 rebounds.  Beverly Kelley, Saunders and Ramirez each added four steals, as well.

Beverly Kelley, the Sun Belt’s leading scorer, was just 5-of-20 from the floor but had timely buckets when it mattered during Troy’s comeback.  Troy trailed by one, 33-32, with under three minutes left in the third quarter when it forced the Jaguars into back-to-back turnovers.  Beverly Kelley got transition layups after both steals and gave Troy the lead for good at 37-33.

Over the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth, South Alabama turned the ball over on seven of eight possessions.

Troy hit 12-of-12 free throws in the fourth quarter to keep South Alabama from getting any closer than four points, meanwhile extending the lead to as many the final 13 points.  Over the entire game, Troy hit 20-of-23 free throws, led by 8-of-9 from Beverly Kelley.

The win was the sixth straight for Troy and its eighth in the last nine games.  The lone loss in that span came to South Alabama, who beat Troy in both regular season meetings, but the Trojans got their revengeon Wednesday.  Troy outrebounded its eighth straight opponent, taking a 43-40 advantage from the Jaguars on the glass.

Troy finished the game shooting just 29 percent (19-of-66) overall and 4-of-19 (21 percent) from long range.  South Alabama hit 36 percent (19-of-53) overall and just 2-of-15 (13 percent) from deep.

South Alabama had three in double figures as Colby Davis and Juliann Miller each posted 11 points, but combined for 14 turnovers.  Marquita Daniels added 10 points and had four steals.  Chyna Ellis, the Sun Belt Defensive Student-Athlete of the Year, had three blocks, but so did La’Tia Fils-Aime’ for Troy who played just eight minutes after missing the last four games.

Troy now turns its attention to regular-season champion Arkansas State, who beat Appalachian State, 81-61, on Wednesday in the tournament’s first game.  The No. 1 seed Red Wolves start five seniors, including the Sun Belt Student-Athlete of the Year, Aundrea Gamble.

The Trojans and Red Wolves will tip off at Lakefront Arena at 11:30 a.m. on Friday. The winner will move on to Saturday’s championship game, which will be played at 7 p.m.

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