Trojans get second chance with invite to WNIT

Published 9:03 pm Tuesday, March 19, 2019

After seeing their dream of winning a conference championship come up short with a loss to South Alabama last week, the Trojans will have a chance to knock off another in-state rival when they host Alabama-Birmingham in the opening round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (NIT) on Thursday evening.
The invite to the NIT marks the fourth time in the last five seasons that the Trojans have played postseason basketball.

“We are really thrilled to get this second chance at life,” said head coach Chanda Rigby. “The Sun Belt Conference Tournament didn’t go the way we wanted to. It was a bad taste in our mouth there at the end of the season. Now we have new life and a new chance and we want to make the most of it.”

The Trojans entered the Sun Belt Conference Tournament last week as a three seed after they finished the season with a 22-7 overall record and 13-5 record in conference play. The 22 wins for the Trojans was second all-time in program history.

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After receiving a double bye in the conference tournament, the Trojans matched up with South Alabama in quarterfinals. The Trojans pushed the Jaguars into overtime, but fell to their in-state rival 87-74.

“We learned that we got beat by a team that had tournament swag,” Rigby said. “It’s a team that gets going and wins a game and it brings them closer together. A team is able to do more than they ever were before. That’s the importance of winning this game against UAB.”

The Trojans will be one of 64 teams in the upcoming tournament. The tournament is made up of 32 automatic berths and 32 at-large selections. Every game of the tournament, including the championship, will be played at host school sites.

An automatic bid was offered to each established Division I conference to the team that finished highest during the regular season that did not get an invite to the NCAA Tournament. The at-large bids were offered to the available teams in the nations by the selection committee.

Thursday will be the first time in program history that Troy has hosted a postseason game.

“It’s huge,” Rigby said. “We are very grateful. Our administration put us into position to be able to host this game. It’s a huge advantage for us. We thought we were going to pack for two games. When they announced it was going to be in Trojan Arena, we felt very proud.”

The Blazers enter the tournament with a 25-6 overall record. They finished play in Conference USA with a 12-4 record. The Blazers are led in scoring by Rachael Childress who comes averaging 14.4 points per game this season. Deanna Kuzmanic, Katelynn Thomas and Miyah Barnes also average double figures.

“There an excellent basketball team,” Rigby said. “They beat some great teams. They took Tennessee to overtime, beat Oklahoma this year, they have done some great things. They are a great three-point team. It’s the type of team where you need to forget about the three-point line on the floor and put a NBA three point line back there, to get our team used to running them off that line.”

The game is set to begin at 6 p.m. at Trojan Arena and can be seen live on ESPN+. The Trojans are ready to make history.

“Nobody wants to end their season the way we ended it in New Orleans in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament,” Rigby said. “That would give us a year to have that bad taste in our mouth. This is a new chance to do things that we know we can do.”