By (James Ogletree)

With two Alabama defenders in her face, Alabama A&M guard Tierra Dark had nowhere to go with the ball. Needing to do something, anything, to keep the ball moving, she launched a desperation pass across the court, hoping one of her teammates could keep the possession alive.

The ball landed in open space with no players nearby and bounded over the scorer’s table, forcing one of the scorers to duck and cover her head. Turnover. Just over three minutes into the game, the Crimson Tide already led 11-0. The Lady Bulldogs were in for a long night.

The Alabama women’s basketball team opened its regular season with a 90-32 win over Alabama A&M, defeating the Lady Bulldogs for the fifth straight year. With the win, the team improved to 4-1 in season openers under head coach Kristy Curry.

“Tonight’s not something that we’ll see an awful lot, but I think you have to credit us for the start we got off to,” Curry said. “We can handle anything that happens when we have that kind of energy and enthusiasm and passion about our actions.”

Freshman forward Ariyah Copeland earned a double-double in her first career game, amassing 16 points and 15 rebounds – leading all players in both categories – as well as several spirited reactions from the Alabama bench.

“I do plan on being really effective that way in every game,” Copeland said. “I shouldn’t settle just because I’m a freshman. I want to be able to help my team out just as much as [forward Nene Bolton, who missed the game due to injury].”

With sophomore point guard Jordan Lewis also sidelined with an injured ankle, her teammates picked up the slack, with four players scoring in double figures. Senior guards Hannah Cook and Meo Knight scored 14 and 10 points, respectively, and were responsible for 10 of the team’s 18 steals.

Curry said the team was shaky without Lewis early on, making a few unforced turnovers, but eventually settled in. She said the team’s remaining point guards, Alana da Silva, Meo Knight, and Daijia Ruffin, will have to embrace the idea of “next man up” in Lewis’ absence, but handled the increased responsibilities well.

“I thought Meo and Alana and Daijia really stepped up,” Cook said. “I’m really proud of them and what they brought to the table.”

Each team had 83 possessions during the game, but that was one of the only statistics in which the teams remained close.

The Crimson Tide shot 43 percent from the floor, while the Lady Bulldogs shot just under 25 percent. Alabama A&M committed 31 turnovers and had two blocks, compared to Alabama’s 13 turnovers and 10 blocks, seven of which came from senior forward Ashley Knight.

Curry said the team did a good job contesting shots and making the Lady Bulldogs uncomfortable, partly due to a full-court press Alabama employed.

“We’ve completely tried to switch gears [defensively] because of the depth on this team and the size and the athleticism,” Curry said. “That’s our identity. We want to play differently than we have in the past and utilize our depth. I think you’ll see [the press] more frequently regardless of who we’re playing.”

The team will host the Utah Utes on Monday night at 7 p.m. CT in Coleman Coliseum. The Utes are 1-0 after defeating Nevada 87-61.

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports