LAS VEGAS – Troy's Japonica James struggled to get the ball to go into the hoop for most of the Las Vegas trip, but the senior showed moxie and was the spark that the Trojans needed late in a battle against Kent State.
James' late game heroics were enough as Troy closed out the South Point Holiday Hoops Classic with a 71-64 victory over Kent State Friday and improved to 9-2 on the year.
Troy trailed for over 33 minutes, before the senior leadership of James was put on full display. One possession after picking up a charging call that negated a basket, she broke in front of Kent State's guard to tip the pass away before sprinting to grab the ball and head down court for the layup, all while absorbing the contact to power it in and draw the foul.
With Troy up two, James went to the line with a chance to give the Trojans a three-point lead. James, who was 1-for-9 from the charity stripe in both games in Vegas, didn't waver. She knocked down the freebie that gave Troy the three-point advantage with just 14 seconds remaining on the clock.
With the lead Troy's defense did the rest, they forced Kent State into back-to-back turnovers before both Kayla Robinson and Tiyah Johnson hit clutch free throws to put the game out of reach.
Kayla Robinson has played her best basketball of the season in these two games in Las Vegas. The senior followed up a 21-point performance against Toledo with a season-high 25 points against Kent State. This was just the second time in her career with back-to-back 20-point games, the last time back during the 2017-18 season.
The Trojans will be back inside Trojan Arena for the first time since Dec. 11 when they host Coastal Carolina at 6 p.m. on Jan. 2, 2020, to begin Sun Belt Conference play.