Troy women fall in heartbreaker to Texas A&M

AUSTIN, Texas – More. Than. Champions. That’s the mantra of the 2020-21 Troy Trojans women’s basketball program.

Never was that mantra on display better than Monday night on national television (ESPN2) in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Despite giving the No. 4 ranked and second seeded Texas A&M Aggies program everything they could handle for 40 minutes and leading multiple times in the fourth and final period, the Troy women’s basketball program dropped an 84-80 heartbreaker Monday night at the Frank Erwin Center in the First Round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament hosted by the University of Texas.

Monday’s matchup between A&M and Troy was the second-closest 2/15 matchup since 2010, and the closest since Mercer fell 66-61 to Iowa in 2019 in the last contested tournament. The closest overall 2/15 matchup in that span was Long Beach State’s one-point (56-55) loss to second-seeded Oregon State back in 2017. Coming into the matchup, women’s basketball 15-seeds were 0-106 all-time against a two-seed, the 15th-seeded Trojans Monday night looked to have a chance to change that to 1-106.

Overcoming a 16-point deficit and multiple 10-point deficits, including a 14-point halftime margin, the Sun Belt Conference Champions did everything they could to record the first NCAA Tournament victory in program history. Leading 71-69 with 5:51 to play, and 73-71 with 5:04 left, the Trojans (22-6) took every punch the SEC champion Aggies (24-2) dealt. The growth and depth of Chanda Rigby’s program was on full display, as the Trojans never trailed by more than four over the final five minutes. There were four ties and one lead change in that span.

Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year and Tournament Most Outstanding Player Alexus Dye contributed 26 points, 11 rebounds and three steals in the setback, while Sun Belt Conference Newcomer of the Year Felmas Koranga contributed 20 points and 11 rebounds. The duo recorded their 23rd and 12th double-doubles respectively. Both Dye and Koranga nearly cemented their status as All-America candidates. The duo recorded double-doubles in the same contest for the 11th time this season. The Trojans were 9-1 in those instances heading into the contest.

Battling foul trouble for a large portion of the fourth period after being whistled for her fourth personal with 8:03 to play that prompted a substitution from Rigby, Dye was simply sensational when she re-entered with 4:21 left and the Trojans down 75-73. After the Aggies and Trojans traded missed shots over the next 90-seconds, a Koranaga 14-footer tied the action at 75 all. A layup from Jordan Nixon with 2:08 to play gave A&M a 77-75 lead with 2:08 to play, but Dye and the Trojans after a timeout quickly evened the score at 77 with 1:37 left. One last layup from Aaliyah Wilson with 71 ticks remaining gave the Aggies a 79-77 lead. On the ensuing Troy possession, the first of three questionable and controversial calls occurred.

Playing with four personal fouls, senior Tyasia Moore drove the lane and was contacted by an Aggie defender. The combo-guard banked a runner off the glass for what appeared to be an and-one layup that would have tied the contest at 79 all and give Moore and the Trojans a chance to take the lead with a free-throw. Instead of ruling a block, Moore and the Trojans were instead whistled for an offensive foul that waved off the basket and disqualified the senior from the contest. With possession of the basketball and a two-point lead, A&M’s Wilson drove the lane and was tripped by a Trojan defender. The foul originally looked to be on the floor and committed by Troy freshman Sharonica Hartsfield, instead the officials whistled Dye for her fifth and final personal foul and ruled that the foul occurred while Nixon was in the shooting motion.

The call disqualified Dye from the game and awarded a pair of free throws to Texas A&M. After clanking the first attempt off the rim, Nixon connected on the second free throw to extend her team’s lead to 80-77. Following a Rigby timeout, Koranga was fouled on a shot attempt and hit the first of two from the charity stripe. The Tyler JC transfer missed her second attempt but senior Tiyah Johnson raced in for the rebound and alertly called timeout with 22 ticks to play. On the in-bounds, Rigby and the Trojans ran a perfect out-of-bounds play for Janiah Sandifer whose corner-pocket triple was just short.Texas A&M secured the rebound and advanced the ball with another timeout. After the break, the Trojans actually knocked the ball free but neither side was able to secure clear possession. As a result, the refs ruled a held-ball and the possession remained with the second-seeded Aggies.

Inbounding at center-court, A&M put the ball into Destiny Pitts hands. The guard clearly established possession in the front court and before she desperately retreated into the back court. Instead of ruling a back court violation with just under five ticks to play, the officials instead deemed that Pitts was fouled.

The senior Minnesota transfer nailed both attempts from the line to give the Aggies an 82-78 advantage with six seconds to play. Needing to draw up a strategy, Rigby signaled for a timeout that advanced the ball into the frontcourt. The play resulted in Sandifer being fouled on a 3-point attempt with just four ticks remaining. After making her first attempt, the guard missed her second and nailed the third and final attempt to cut the A&M lead to just 82-80. Needing a missed attempt from the line, Johnson and the Trojans fouled Pitts, who sealed the 84-80 victory with just two seconds left. After winning the Sun Belt Conference for the third time in five years, the Trojans close the season with a 22-6 mark.

Categories: March Madness on CBS8, NCAA Basketball, Troy