Troy outscored the Southeastern women's basketball team, 34-25, in the fourth quarter to pull away for an 81-69 victory.

It was the opening game of the 33rd annual Lady Eagles Thanksgiving Classic on Friday evening at Reed Green Coliseum in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. 

Earlier in the day, host Southern Miss canceled its two tournament games due to COVID-19 concerns within the Southern Miss program, including Saturday’s 5 p.m. game versus SLU. 

SLU (1-1) went in to the final quarter trailing, 57-54, as it played evenly with the defending Sun Belt Conference champion Trojans (1-0), who return seven seniors from a 2019-20 roster that registered a 26-4 record.

However, Troy was able to push its lead to as much as 15 in the final period to hold off Southeastern’s upset bid.

Official stats had not yet been finalized as of Saturday. Unofficially, Cierria Cunningham led Southeastern with 20 points and eight rebounds in Friday’s loss. A Tuscaloosa native Cunningham was one of three Lady Lions in double figures, along with Hailey Giaratano and Breonca Ducksworth who chipped in with 10 points apiece.

Troy countered with three players of its own in double figures. Tiyah Johnson led the Trojans with 19 points, while Alexius Dye posted a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Janiah Sandifer added 11 points for the victors.

Troy jumped out to a 17-5 lead in the first quarter, but SLU closed the period with an 8-0 run to trim the advantage to 17-13. The Trojans again extended their lead to 12 in the second quarter, but Southeastern closed the half strong to go into the break within one and trailing, 35-34. 

SLU took the lead early in the third quarter on a three-point play by Natalie Kelly, but Troy quickly retook the lead. Neither team could gain a clear advantage in the third quarter, as Southeastern went into the final period facing a 57-54 deficit. 

The Trojans took control of the game for good to start the fourth quarter. Sandifer hit a pair of threes to ignite a 15-3 run that gave Troy a 72-57 lead with just under five minutes left. Southeastern would get no closer than nine down the stretch.

Southeastern will take over a week off before returning to action. On Dec. 8, SLU will travel to face Southland Conference rival Stephen F. Austin in a 6:30 p.m. non-conference game in Nacogdoches, Texas. The game will air on ESPN+.

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