GSU’s Rally Too Late

STATESBORO, Ga. - The Georgia Southern women's basketball team rallied back from a 17-point deficit in the second half to pull within three, but Troy held on for the 58-53 win, Thursday night, at Hanner Fieldhouse.

Georgia Southern falls to 5-7 with the non-conference loss, its second straight before going into the Christmas break.

Troy improves to 7-4 with the win, going 2-0 against the Lady Eagles this year.

After a rocky start in the first half, plagued by an 18.2 percent shooting figure, the Lady Eagles rallied back and were paced by Tiffany Brown (Waxhaw, N.C.) who scored 11 of her game-high 18 points in the second half.

Troy's two-guard tandem in Amy Lewis and Kylie Morrissy both contributed a double-double as four Trojans scored in double-figures. Morrissy tallied 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Lewis recorded 12 points and 10 rebounds.

But as well as the Trojans executed their shooting duties, the Lady Eagles excelled with a tight, scrappy defense that produced 22 points off of the opposition's mistakes.

"We forced 29 turnovers tonight and only had (16) ourselves. That's pretty gutsy basketball," said 11th year head coach Rusty Cram. "When you shoot 22 percent from the field and 20 percent from the three-point line - especially when you're missing free-throws down the stretch - that's just hard to overcome. I don't care what kind of defense you're playing. You've got to put the ball in the hole. That's the bottom line."

The Trojans made 50.0 percent of their attempts from the field, making 9-of-25 in the first half.

Three quick fouls by Georgia Southern led to the Trojans getting on the scoreboard first with a free-throw off the hands of Valensia Hairston.

Brown was fouled shooting a layup on a fast break and was sent to the line with 16:57 on the clock. She sank both shots to give the Lady Eagles their first points of the game and a 2-1 lead.

Shawnda Atwood's (Pensacola, Fla.) steal at 8:28 and a backdoor pass to a cutting Brown led to reverse layup and the Lady Eagles' first lead of the game, 15-13.

Troy's Lewis sparked a 13-0 scoring run when she buried a three-pointer, and the Trojans commanded a 26-15 lead with 3:30 remaining in the first half.

Ashley Rivens (Charlotte, N.C.) finally broke the six-minute scoring drought with a 12-footer that closed Troy's lead to just nine points.

But the Trojans held the Lady Eagles to 6-of-33 shooting in the first half, compared to Troy's 36.0 percent. Despite committing 16 turnovers, the Trojans went into the locker room with a 28-19 lead.

In the next stanza, Chequilla Jessie's (Sanford, Fla.) give-and-go pass to a cutting Rivens gave the Lady Eagles the first points of the second half.

But over the next 2:42, Troy built up a 17-point lead scoring the next 10 points, its largest lead of the game, 38-21.

Carolyn Whitney (Duluth, Ga.) finally broke the GSU drought burying a trey with 15:40 remaining in the half and closing the Troy lead to 38-24. Her successful shot ignited a 13-6 run that closed the Troy lead to 10 points.

Both teams traded buckets throughout the remainder of the contest until the Lady Eagles climbed their way back with a 9-0 run over a 3:36 time-span, capped by Whitney's three-pointer. Consequently, the Lady Eagles found themselves down by six with 1:21 remaining.

A pair of free-throws off the hands of Brown brought the Lady Eagles to within four points with 48 to go. Though the Trojans were sent to the line four times, with each attempt successful, and an eight-point lead with 39 seconds remaining, the Lady Eagles continued to battle back.

Troy made a free throw in between a pair of trifectas off the hands of Brown and Ashley Melson (Newnan, Ga.), and the Lady Eagles had pulled to within three points with 10 seconds remaining. But the second half rally came up sair of free-throws and time expired.

"The heart was there," said Cram of the second-half rally. "We can build from that. They're young. We know that. We just made some mistakes at the wrong time. But we stepped up, too. We'll get better, if they play with that kind of heart."

The Lady Eagles went 17-of-27 (.630) from the charity stripe, behind Troy's 14-of-18 (.778) free-throw shooting.

The Lady Eagles take a break for the Christmas holiday before returning back to Hanner Fieldhouse for the fourth of a five-game homestand versus Furman, Dec. 30. Tip-off is slated for 1 p.m. The men's basketball team will follow the women's game to cap the home double-header as they battle UNC Greensboro.