By: Devin Smith
The past week has been a continuation of a January that has not been kind to the Troy women’s basketball team.
The Trojans traveled to Florida last Wednesday hoping to end what, at the time, was a five game losing streak and gain their first pair of conference victories, but a rough night in Boca Raton followed by a heart-breaker in Miami left Troy (3-14, 0-8) reeling back home.
Florida Atlantic (10-7, 7-2) entered last Wednesday’s contest looking to rebound following their second conference loss of the season and hoping to make a statement against the Trojans.
Fueled by 18 of Latavia Dempsey’s 25 points in the first, Florida Atlantic raced to the half leading by eight. A Joanna Harden turnover to open the second half lead to the ensuing 3-pointer by Kimberly Smith for Florida Atlantic, giving the Owls a 43-32 advantage.
At this point the game, and perhaps the season, seemed to be slipping away from the Trojans on a night that they would ultimately commit a season-high 31 turnovers. It was at that moment that Harden and Jasmine Pitts pushed a six-point run to cut the lead to only five.
Harden finished the game with 15 points on the night accompanied with a career-high 18 points from Pitts. At one point Troy trailed only 60-55, but the Owls slowly built back a 12 point lead that they would never lose.
Troy held Florida Atlantic to only 35.4 percent (23-of-65) from the field while shooting a very respectable 48.1 percent (23-of-65) themselves, despite 14 less shots from the field than their average.
The following Saturday the Trojans walked on the court to face the Golden Panthers of FIU with a different mentality, and it showed in their performance.
In a highly competitive game that had eight lead changes, Troy showed a lot of heart and determination against FIU (5-4, 11-7), who had lost all but one of its games by seven points or less.
Golden Panther All-America candidate Jerica Coley led her team with 33 points, the majority of which came from an impressive 19-23 from the charity stripe. However, Coley shared the game-high point total with Troy’s Joanna Harden, who also had 33 points.
After trailing by ten early in the second half, the Trojans stormed back to tie the game 58-58 with 5:47 remaining in the game. But Troy quickly saw the tie replaced with a six-point deficit.
Big shots by Harden and Jasmine Pitts, who nearly recorded a double-double with ten points and eight assists, kept Troy in the game down the stretch. In the last minute Ashley Beverly-Kelley scored five of her nine points to get Troy as close as within three with 37 seconds to play, but a late rebound by FIU with Troy trailing by four ended the game.
Troy shot and defended well again with 37.5 percent (27-of-61) from the field and holding the Golden Panthers to 37.5 percent (24-of-64), including two-of-eight from behind the arc. They also drastically improved in the turnover margin, committing only 13 as opposed to 31 in the previous game.
Florida Atlantic controlled the boards for much of the game, besting Troy 44-37. They also reached the free throw line more than twice as many times as Troy. Troy will need to make a concerned effort to create a physical presence in the paint in order to fix these problems and re-enter the win column.
The Trojans return home to face the Sun Belt’s western division leading Arkansas State Red Wolves (9-9, 6-3) looking for their first home victory in over a month, and will then travel to Louisiana on Saturday looking to gain some momentum against Louisiana Monroe (1-8, 3-15).
The Red Wolves will be ridding a four game winning streak, including a win over Western Kentucky, who was previously unbeaten in conference play. Louisiana Monroe should prove to be a much easier challenge to accomplish, but the Trojans will have to remain focused if they hope to return home with a victory.