By (James Ogletree)

Playing on the road is never easy, especially in the SEC, which has six of the 14 teams ranked in the top 25. So far this season, the Alabama women’s basketball teamis 4-4 on the road, including two SEC wins.

Now the Crimson Tide will use the lessons it learned in earlier conference road games as it plays at Kentucky and at Auburn over the next four days.

The Crimson Tide won road games against Florida and Arkansas to start off the new year, ending seven-year losing streaks to each opponent. A week later, the team played at then-No. 4, now No. 2 Mississippi State, a game attended by nearly 10,000 fans, quadrupling the standard attendance at Coleman Coliseum.

“Being able to pull from those experiences where we’ve won on the road and having that great crowd at Mississippi State lets us learn from those experiences and take that into Kentucky,” senior forward NeNe Bolton said.

All season, head coach Kristy Curry has preached to her team the importance of learning from the challenges it faces. Struggles in the early portion of the season as well as injuries to key players took their toll, but Curry said they’ve helped equip the team to handle rugged SEC play.

She added that the coaches do not run practices any differently for road games than they do for home games, because they believe the players’ experiences in hostile environments are more helpful than anything they could add to practice.

Since beginning its conference schedule on New Year’s Eve against Missouri, Alabama has gone 4-3 in the SEC. In six of those seven games, the team that won the rebounding battle won the game.

Rebounding is always a priority Curry said, and not just on defense. Extending possessions and scoring putbacks off of offensive rebounds are also essential, especially on the road, where she said players must block out everything that is beyond their control.

“Rebounding is the size of your heart and the defensive end is the size of your heart,” Curry said. “It’s just flat-out toughness. Those two areas are always within your control.”

Senior forward Ashley Williams, Alabama’s leading rebounder, knows the importance of dominating the glass, and says she is constantly striving to get more boards during games.

“I value rebounding,” Williams said. “I like to rebound. I set goals for how many rebounds I want to get. I check with [assistant coach Shereka Wright] during the game and she tells me how many rebounds I have. It pushes me to get more … A goal is to have 10.”

Another area in which the team will focus on Thursday night is defending the Wildcats’ three-point shooting. Guards Maci Morris and Makenzie Cann both rank in the top 25 in the SEC in three-point percentage.

Kentucky (9-11 overall, 1-5 SEC) will host Alabama (14-6, 4-3 SEC) at 6 p.m. CT on Thursday, and Sunday’s game at Auburn (10-9, 1-6) will tip off at 4 p.m. CT.

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports