By (James Ogletree)

For the third straight game, Alabama women’s basketball defeated a conference opponent with a late scoring barrage, riding hot shooting by senior guard Hannah Cook to a 65-51 win over the LSU Lady Tigers on Thursday night.

With the win, Alabama improves to 3-1 in SEC play for the first time since 1998.

The team finished last week’s game at Florida on an 11-0 run, and it took a 7-0 run into the final minute three days later at Arkansas. Back at home against the Lady Tigers, the Crimson Tide pitched a shutout over the final 4:34, and pulled away by scoring the game’s final 11 points.

“I really liked our team’s toughness,” head coach Kristy Curry said. “There were moments where we struggled, but down the stretch everybody really did their job.”

It seemed that every time Alabama was in need of a spark, Cook was up to the challenge. With Alabama’s 10-point first-quarter lead having melted away into a seven-point deficit early in the second half, Cook took charge.

Her first three-pointer came a minute into the third quarter, and set off a 16-6 Alabama run over the next five-and-a-half minutes that included eight straight points.

Before the quarter could even come to a close, though, LSU had tied the game again. Another three-pointer from Cook with 22 seconds remaining gave the team a jolt entering the final quarter, and her third kick-started a 14-3 run over the game’s last five minutes.

“When Cook hit those threes, that really opened it up for them,” LSU head coach Nikki Fargas said. “When you have a lead, you have an opportunity to make a run… I never felt like we got ourselves going to make a run.”

Cook attributed her 3-for-5 game from beyond the arc not to better shot selection or a strategic adjustment by the coaches, but simply her teammates getting her the ball and trusting her to make her shots.

“I think [it was] just my teammates finding me and having confidence in me shooting the ball,” Cook said. “I haven’t been shooting it well, but I think I’m back in my rhythm.”

Senior forward Ashley Williams said Wednesday that containing LSU’s top players, Chloe Jackson and Raigyne Louis, had been a focal point in practice and would be essential to earning a victory.

Jackson and Louis combined to shoot 11 of 32 (34 percent), more than 10 points below their season average.

“Being able to go out there and execute our scout was a great thing and helped us come out with this win,” Williams said.

Williams tied Cook for the team lead with 14 points. She also recorded 11 rebounds, earning her second double-double of the season. Sophomore guard Jordan Lewis had eight assists, tying her season high.

The win could also have NCAA Tournament ramifications. The Crimson Tide, ranked 77th in the NCAA’s Rating Percentage Index, taking down the 45th-ranked Lady Tigers could catch the eye of the selection committee.

Alabama faced its toughest matchup of the season on Sunday at 3 p.m. CT: a road tilt against the No. 4-ranked undefeated Mississippi State Bulldogs, last season’s NCAA Tournament runner-up.

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports