Kelly#039;s contributions significant even from bench

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 29, 2003

The first five conference games have been relatively nice for the Troy State women's basketball team.

The Lady Trojans are 4-1, with only a close loss to Florida Atlantic keeping them from perfection.

Tonight, though, Troy State will face its toughest conference test to date. The Lady Trojans face Georgia State at 7 p.m. The Lady Panthers have won the last11 meetings; Troy State last won Feb. 2, 1998.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

"We are cognizant of the fact we haven't beaten this team in a long time," Troy State head coach Michael Murphy said. "At the same time, we can't let this game be the season for us. We have to play Saturday win or lose."

Troy State rides a three-game winning streak and holds a 9-7 record. By virtue of a tiebreaker over Central Florida, the Lady Trojans are in first place in the Atlantic Sun South Division. Georgia State is 8-8 overall, 3-2 in the conference and is the reigning Atlantic Sun Champion.

"This is a big game, so I've heard," said junior-college transfer Constance Kelly. "I wasn't here last year, but I know they are a good team."

Kelly has been one of the keys to the Lady Trojans' most recent success. The one-time starting guard scored eight points in four games after moving back to the bench, but has scored 21 in the past two games.

Her points were important Troy State's home wins over Stetson and Jacksonville as they came at key moments in the first half.

"Whenever you see a good team, you see they have a strong bench," Murphy said. "Bench players who contribute bring a lot of energy off the bench, and by energy I mean at the defensive end, that gives the team some extra momentum."

Kelly started five games earlier in the season, averaging 27 minutes a game. After the Louisville game, she played only eight minutes against Murray State and was held without a shot attempt.

"Sometimes, it's not what you do in the last game that makes you a starter, but what you do in practice," Murphy said. "I think even Constance would tell you she did not have the best practices when she came back from Christmas. Other players stepped up and received the starting role."

Kelly has embraced the role given to her as a bench player.

"It's a positive thing because I make that way," Kelly said. "I'm willing to do what I can to help the team.

"I never had a problem with not starting, but I had a problem when I wasn't getting any minutes. It is hard to get into a rhythm and produce when you go in the game and come right back out."

She has averaged 16 minutes in each of the past two games and has shown off during those games. She is as likely to take a three-point shot as she is to drive to the basket and deliver a no-look pass to an open teammate.

"I enjoy getting my teammates involved," she said. "I have a good feel for where people are on the court. They learned in practice a long time ago to pay attention when I have the ball."