Five minutes into an important Southeastern Conference women’s basketball matchup with LSU, baskets were coming way too easy for the Crimson Tide. It didn’t take long for that to change, but Alabama’s players knew that transformation was coming.
LSU, one of the SEC’s defensive juggernauts, quickly got its defense back into form, but it wasn’t enough to stop an 11-0 fourth-quarter-run that helped Alabama defeat the Tigers, 65-51, Thursday night at Coleman Coliseum.
“I thought we were aggressive down the stretch,” said Alabama coach Kristy Curry. “I know in the first quarter we and had eight assists, and we didn’t have any in the second. I thought we were doing a lot of standing around and watching, but down the stretch we got aggressive.”
It was not pretty at times. Within the first 20 minutes, the Tigers and Crimson Tide combined for 19 turnovers, and grabbed, hacked and clawed their way to 19 personal fouls in the first half that were accompanied by whistles for deflected passes out of bounds. If it didn’t come on a fast-break, open looks were hard to find.
Where Alabama found some success, however, was inside. Post players Ashley Knight and Ashley Williams converted on nine of 13 shots to combine for 24 points that made up a big chunk of the Crimson Tide’s 32 points in the paint. The challenge was finding a path through the Tiger’s zone defense to pass the ball inside.
“One of our main goals was to try to get it into the post and work off of that,” Alabama senior Hannah Cook said. “I think they did a good job of denying it, but I thought (Ashley Williams), (Ashley Knight) and (Quanetria Bolton) did a good job of handling that, and we got it in.”
Alabama put together a 13-6 run coming out of halftime that reclaimed the lead, but the two teams stayed within one possession for much of the third quarter. The offensive spark started with Cook, who knocked down three 3-point baskets and scored a team-high 14 points.
Despite the offensive bump, LSU matched Alabama by continuously finishing mid-range jump shots that took away the shot-blocking abilities of the Crimson Tide bigs.
The Tigers’ leading scorers, Raigyne Louis and Chloe Jackson, were also the Tigers’ team-leaders in points against Alabama, but the Crimson Tide’s defense held them both below their season average in field-goal percentage. Jackson and Louis combined to shoot 11 of 32 and made just one basket from behind the arc.
“We had some players that have typically been really good with their percentages. I thought Jackson and Louis in particular have been two that have carried us,” LSU coach Nikki Fargas said. “But, we have to have more from everybody else when they are struggling.”
The win takes Alabama to a 3-1 conference start for the first time since the 1997-98 season and gives the Crimson Tide its third-straight win before taking on back-to-back Top 25 teams next week. The Tide is 13-4 overall.
“Down the stretch, I thought everybody really did their job,” Curry said. “So, I loved our toughness tonight. We have to defend our home court, that’s important. I’ve liked our growth from our first home game to tonight.”