March 16, 2017 10:05:36 AM
Get your stopwatch out.
Go. Count to seven. Shoot. Stop. Repeat.
Chanda Rigby knows that isn't a conventional pattern for success as a basketball coach. But Rigby wanted to create a system that made the game exciting in her new job at Troy University, so she decided to install a fast-paced style of play patterned after Dave Arsenault's Division III Grinnell College men's basketball team.
Five years later, Troy is hoisting shots and scoring points with the top teams in the nation.
"When I got to Troy, they were building a brand new arena and had won only two games the year before and scored I think 40 points a game," Rigby said. "One of the things I tried to sell as we were going to be exciting and fun to watch before we got good."
Rigby's style of play has helped Troy win 20 or more games in three consecutive seasons for the first time in program history. At 1:30 p.m.
Friday (ESPN2), 15th-seeded Troy will see how its up-tempo brand of basketball fares against second-seeded Mississippi State (29-4) in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Humphrey Coliseum.
The winner of that game will take on the winner of the game between seventh-seeded DePaul (26-7) and 10th-seeded Northern Iowa (24-8) on Sunday at a time to be determined. The winner of that game will advance to the Sweet 16 of the Oklahoma City Regional.
Troy secured its second-straight appearance in the NCAA tournament by beating Louisiana-Lafayette in the championship game of the Sun Belt Conference tournament. The Trojans finished third in the regular-season standings (12-6) behind Little Rock and Texas-Arlington.
Troy has led the Sun Belt Conference in scoring the last five seasons. It is eighth in the nation in scoring (82.9 points per game) and is 10th in the nation in turnovers forced per game (21).
Rebounding is another key to the Trojans' success. Troy leads the nation in offensive rebounds per game (20). It also is second in rebounds (1,608), second in rebounds per game (50.8), and fifth in free throws made (514).
Rigby, a former girls basketball coach at Northwest Rankin High School in Brandon and at Holmes Community College in Goodman, said rebounding is more about determination and effort than technique. She credits her players for their willingness to buy into her style of play and the hard work it takes to make it go.
"It is a continuous education every day about reminding our team we're going to strive to shoot 100 shots in this game and therefore there are going to be a lot of missed shots," Rigby said. "Every day (in practice) they have to figure out how to score 15 points in five minutes."
Rigby said the Trojans have figured out that rebounding is an easy way to get shots off quicker, which helps explain why her team was able to outrebound Arkansas State 86-39 in a 105-72 victory in the Sun Belt Conference tournament. Troy had 45 offensive rebounds in the win, which was the second-highest total in a game in NCAA history. Those 45 rebounds led to 43 second-chance points.
The rebounding prowess works well with a system patterned after the style of play Arsenault installed at Grinnell. Through 2012, Grinnell won five conference championships, played in the postseason 11 times, and led the nation in scoring at all levels in 17 of 19 seasons.
Troy's success is based on a rotation that has 10 players averaging double-digit minutes. The Trojans have used at least 12 players in every game, and five have attempted 200 or more shots.
Senior forward Caitlyn Ramirez, a first-team All-Sun Belt Conference pick, leads the team in scoring (13.2 points per game) and rebounding (10.6). She averaged 15 points and 15.7 rebounds to earn Sun Belt Conference tournament MVP honors.
Troy is 242-for-803 (30.1 percent) from 3-point range. The Trojans are 14th in the nation in 3-pointers attempted and are 35th in 3-pointers made.
"They love it," Rigby said of her team's style of play. "It is player's dream. Everybody has the green light to go down and score, and everybody on our bench plays."
Rigby credits associate head coach Jennifer Graf and assistant coaches Courtney Simmons and Neil Harrow for developing the players and teaching them the fundamentals. She said she doesn't do a lot of Xs and Ox and relies on her ability to motivate her players to commit to her brand of basketball. Rigby said her husband, Ed, who is a longtime football coach, is an "eternal optimist" who has believed in her and encouraged her to stay the course on a journey that has included stops in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida.
"He never doubted we could do it," Rigby said of her husband. "It didn't surprise him we won back-to-back Sun Belt Conference championships. He would never consider anything but we're going to beat Mississippi State on Friday."
After losing to Oregon State in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season, Rigby would consider a victory Friday as an example of how much a team can accomplish if it believes.
"We call it the program that faith built," Rigby said. "It is believing what you can't see and what has not been done here and keeping that vision in front of them. Once you learn the skills to believe in what you can't see and how far you can go once you bring it to fruition, you can do anything in this world."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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