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Champions: Trojans heading back to NCAA Tournament

The Trojans are heading back to the NCAA Tournament after knocking off Louisiana 73-63 in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament Championship on Monday afternoon in Pensacola, Fla.

The Trojans never trailed on their way to a 10 point win over the Cajuns. They are heading to the NCAA Tournament for the third time under head coach Chanda Rigby. The Trojans will head back to the tournament after previously going in 2016 and 2017.

“I think they just keep getting sweeter,” head coach Chanda Rigby said. “Everyone is special. The thought that we get to represent this conference in the NCAA Tournament is almost too much and overwhelming.”

The Trojans jumped out to a 6-2 lead with a pair of 3-pointers by Jasmine Robinson. Leading 8-7, the Trojans closed out the opening quarter on a 6-0 run to go into the second leading 14-7.

Robinson finished the game with a team high 17 points for the Trojans and played a key role for the Trojans when Alexus Dye and Felmas Koranga got off to slow starts offensively.

“Just looking how poised she was, she took the right shots at the right time,” Rigby said. “She delivered the ball to where it needed to go…She is a four-year player for us and a senior. She played like a senior.”

The Trojans had a pair of 7-0 runs in the second quarter and led by as many as 15 points before going into halftime leading 36-22.

The Trojans allowed four straight points to begin the third quarter allowing their lead to shrink to 10. The Trojans briefly saw their lead shrink to single digits before closing out the quarter with an 11-point lead at 56-45.

The Cajuns scored the first eight points in the fourth quarter and quickly pulled to within three at 56-53.

Koranga and the Trojans quickly responded with an 8-0 run to stretch their lead back to 11. Koranga had six straight points for the Trojans during the run.

“They had senior leadership, but we do as well,” Rigby said. “We have people who have been in some horrific battles to try to win, even throughout the tournament. It makes you stronger and we have been in those situations before. The ability of our players to keep the belief that we are going to win says it all. They never flinched. They believe no matter how close it got that they were going to win.”

The Trojans held a six point advantage with 1:26 remaining. They sealed the game with a pair of free throws by Tiffany Johnson and Robinson.

After finishing the first half with a combined four points and 15 rebounds, Koranga and Dye finished with 12 and 11 points respectively. Both players, who are averaging a double-double this season, added another on Monday when Koranga finished with 22 rebounds and Dye had 14.

The Trojans out rebounded the Cajuns 58-40 and had 24 second chance points compared to just two by Louisiana.

“When Alexus and Felmas couldn’t really get going and we couldn’t get the ball to them in our offense they started rebounding and drawing fouls on the put backs,” Rigby said. “They started with being really strong on the boards, and the put backs is what took the lid off the rim for Alexus and helped us get a little bit of an advantage.”

The Trojans will wait until next Monday to hear who their first round opponent will be in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.