Even during a disappointing season for South Alabama basketball, one thing has remained constant – the Jaguars don’t lose at home to Troy under Richie Riley.
South Alabama dominated wire-to-wire in Saturday’s 77-60 victory, scoring the first eight points of the game and leading by double digits throughout the second half. It was the fifth win for the Jaguars versus the Trojans at the Mitchell Center in Riley’s five seasons.
More importantly, the win broke a four-game losing streak for the Jaguars, who are now 9–13 overall, 3–7 in the Sun Belt Conference. Two days after publicly apologizing for his team’s lack of effort in a 66-64 loss to Old Dominion on Thursday, South Alabama played arguably its most complete game of the season.
“The guys really responded today,” said Riley, whose team had lost four straight before Saturday by a combined 19 points. “I challenged him. We probably talked for 45 minutes to an hour (Friday) night after watching the film on Troy. It wasn’t about Xs & Os, it was about mindset and who we want to be. … They responded better than they have all year. It was a team effort. Everyone who stepped on the court showed up.
“If we show up every night and we give it our all for this thing, we end up having these 2-point losses, 3-point losses, 4-point losses that come at the end. Our boys I was pleased with what they did and how they responded to the message.
Troy’s Christian Turner hit a pair of 3s early, then a Williams layup cut South Alabama’s lead to 20–15 with 9:36 remaining in the first half. The Jaguars responded with a one-handed alley-oop dunk from Kevin Samuel with an assist from Isaiah Moore, and the losing streak was on.
South Alabama led 37–25 at halftime and by as many as 20 in the final two minutes. Moore led all scorers with 23 points – his third-highest points of the season and his eighth game of 20-plus points – and also grabbed seven rebounds in 36 minutes.
“I felt like we were together from the jump today,” said Moore, who is now averaging 18.2 points per game this season. “We didn’t stop any plays. We said from the beginning ‘That doesn’t happen, we’re going to play defense and limit their points, try to get stops every time.’ We call it ‘The Kill.’ Kill every time.'”
Troy (13-10, 5-5) lost for the fourth time in five games, its second straight by double digits, after Thursday’s 72-57 loss at Louisiana. The Trojans were outscored 37–22, and never got closer to a more than five-point lead after the first two minutes of the game.
Christian Eugene led Troy in points with 17 points, while Amer Muhammad added 10. Zay Williams and Kiefer Punter — who had averaged nearly 20 points per game coming into this season — totaled 9 on Saturday.
Troy coach Scott Cross said, “(For South Alabama) to score 46 points in the paint, I don’t think I’ve ever done that to my team.” “And then to lose the rebounding battle the way we did. Our players did not compete the way they should have. We’ll have to do some introspection and get back to work on Monday. We need to make a comeback.”
However, Moore didn’t do it alone for South Alabama. Tyrell Jones had 15 points and three assists, while Greg Parham scored 13 points in 31 minutes off the bench.
Samuel had a good bounce-back game on Thursday versus Old Dominion after going scoreless in the second half and sitting on the bench. The Jaguars’ Big Man scored 10 points, grabbed 13 rebounds — six of them offensive boards — and blocked four shots.
“Obviously, Kev responded at a higher level than the last game,” Riley said. “He had six offensive rebounds, 13 total, 5 of 6 from the field, four blocks, made challenges and converted several others. He just had the presence. You could say, he had a very different mindset to start the game. We need him every match.”
South Alabama shot 52.6% from the field in the game, and made 6 of 13 3-point attempts. Troy did not shoot particularly poorly (41.7% overall, 7 of 13 on 3), but was not a player with more than four rebounds.
Both teams excelled from the free-throw line, with Troy making 13 of 16 and South Alabama making 11 of 14.
Riley is now 8-1 overall versus the Trojans, the only loss coming at Troy last January 29. The Jaguars haven’t lost to their in-state rivals in Mobile since 2018, the final season under coach Matthew Graves.
“I was really proud of who we were as a team today,” Riley said. “It looked like we had a chance to move forward.”
South Alabama hits the road next week, traveling to Arkansas State on Thursday at 7 p.m., then Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Troy is back home for four straight Thursday starts, when it hosts Southern Miss at 6 p.m. The Trojans then welcome Texas State to Trojan Arena on Saturday at 6 p.m., followed by South Alabama February 9 and Louisiana February 11.