UL’s women’s basketball team handed Troy’s Trojans their only loss in Sun Belt Conference play three weeks ago with a stunning road win.
On Saturday, the Ragin’ Cajuns almost made it two in a row, but the Trojans’ domination of the boards finally proved too much.
Troy had two key offensive rebound putbacks in the final three minutes to overcome a two-point UL lead, and Jasmine Robinson hit a pair of free throws with 14 seconds left to provide the winning margin as the Trojans held on for a 67-64 Sun Belt Conference win Saturday at the Cajundome.
Troy (19-3, 10-1), winning for the 16th time in its past 17 games, held a 52-34 rebound advantage. The nation’s best offensive rebounding team also had 21 of those, and Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead said that was the biggest difference.
“They’re so athletic, they attack the backside so well,” said Brodhead, whose team had pulled off a 79-73 road win over the Trojans back in mid-January for Troy’s only loss since Nov. 24. “We were trying to block them out, even blocking them out on the baseline is difficult because they’re so aggressive, all five of them. A lot of times they’re not even playing defensive transition, all they want to do is rebound.”
That offensive board crashing paid off late when Alexus Dye had her seventh of the game and a putback basket with 3:08 left for a 61-all tie, and after a Cajuns miss and Kate Rodgers’ game-high 12th rebound, Kayla Robinson hit a jumper in transition to give Troy the lead for good.
“This week in practice we tried to focus on rebounding, that was our main goal,” said Cajuns guard Andrea Cournoyer, who had 16 points to lead UL. “Coming in, we knew that’s what they do. Obviously we didn’t do as well as we wanted on that part. Hopefully we’ll get them again in the (Sun Belt) tournament, and we’ll be ready for that.”
The Cajuns (13-9, 6-5), losers of their third straight after a 6-2 start to conference play, made up for some of that rebound deficit by forcing 19 Trojans turnovers. More importantly, UL converted those into 22 points on the way to holding the Trojans to their lowest point total of the season.
“If you turn them over, you don’t have to rebound,” Cournoyer said. “That’s what we were going for. We try to get in people’s faces, and that makes it harder for them to pass. We did a good job on that, and it helped us on the offensive end.”
Kayla Robinson, who finished with 10 second-half points as one of three Trojans in double figures, had another jumper at the 2:14 mark that provided a 65-62 lead, but UL forced turnovers on Troy’s next two possessions. Skyler Goodwin missed a 3-point attempt on the first, but Brandi Williams was fouled after the second and hit both free throws with 24 seconds left to make it a 65-64 game.
The Cajuns tried for a steal before fouling Jasmine Robinson with 14 seconds left, and she made both free throws for the three-point difference. UL’s Diamond Morrison got off a 3-pointer but had it bounce off the rim, and fittingly Troy’s Tyasia Moore claimed her team’s 52nd rebound — still three short of their nation-leading average of 55 per game.
“We worked on that, but you can only work on it so much,” Brodhead said. “At the same time, turnovers paid off for us. Everybody has their strengths. I thought we controlled the tempo … they want to score 80, 100 points. But every time we would get a lead, they would score quick. That’s what they do. That’s their DNA, to come down and try to score within six or eight seconds.”
The Cajuns trailed by as many as nine points early in the second half and didn’t lead in the game until Kendall Bess’ jumper with 3:47 left in the third quarter gave UL a 41-39 lead. But Troy answered with a 7-0 run, and three other times in the final 11 minutes the Trojans answered a Cajuns lead with a tying or go-ahead basket on their next possession.
Williams added 15 points including a 9-of-9 free-throw performance and Ty Doucet had 10 for the Cajuns, who shot only 34.9% from the floor and were 4 of 23 outside the arc. UL was only 1 of 10 on 3-pointers in the first half in trailing 29-22.
“Even at halftime I thought we had control of the game,” Brodhead said. “We passed on some shots in the second quarter and even in the fourth quarter. They’re inviting you to run with them and it looks good and you think you can, and you wind up getting beat by 35 trying to do that. We don’t want to get in a running game with them, and we had the tempo where we wanted it.”
Dye had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds for Troy, whose only other losses this season have come to Duke and Mississippi State.