Hannah Cook bent her knees, extended her arm, and shot her free throw. The ball hit the back of the rim, bounced straight up, and fell through the hoop, hitting nothing but net. Cook shook her head and exhaled, acknowledging the ball could’ve just as easily missed.
The entire Alabama women’s basketball team might have had the same reaction after escaping with a 77-75 win over last-place Vanderbilt on Sunday afternoon.
Head coach Kristy Curry called senior guard Meo Knight the team MVP for the game. She tied her season high with 17 points, making six of her nine shots.
“I had the hot hand,” Knight said. “You just have to keep trusting and believing in yourself and believing in your teammates that they’ll step up when it’s time to.”
At one point midway through the second quarter, Knight was 4-of-5 from the field and had 10 of Alabama’s 19 points. The rest of team was 3-of-18.
The Crimson Tide trailed by as many as 13 points late in the second quarter, but a 9-0 run before halftime cut the deficit to five.
“It just looked like we were sluggish defensively,” Curry said. “We got off to a poor start, but over the course of 40 minutes we were able to just get a few more stops and a few more plays. But we certainly want to stop digging ourselves a hole.”
Senior forward Ashley Williams returned to the lineup after missing Thursday’s game against Texas A&M, accruing eight points and nine rebounds. Curry said her players’ effort and energy were much improved with Williams back, but Thursday’s loss indicated they need to learn to fight through adversity.
“She has a special aura about her; just her presence alone is incredible when she enters a room,” Curry said. “She’s got that ‘it’ factor… You can just see us take a deep breath and go, She’s here. She’s back. But we’ve got to be able to mature past [injuries] and be able to step up and makes plays. Instead of letting that deflate us, it needs to inflate us.”
Vanderbilt head coach Stephanie White said her team would need to protect the ball and defend the paint in order to leave Tuscaloosa with a win. The Commodores, ranked second-to-last in the SEC in turnover margin, had 17 against the Crimson Tide, and Alabama outscored them 34-28 in the paint.
“You’ve got that +5 turnover differential and then you look at our ability to turn those turnovers into offense,” Curry said. “It was a good day from Ashley [Williams] and NeNe [Bolton], and [Ashley Knight] tried and Ariyah [Copeland] came in… It might not look like a lot, but their minutes really made a big difference for us today.”
Curry pointed out that the top teams in the SEC all have dominant post play. She added that since Alabama does not have a post player of the same caliber as those teams, it will rely on a collective effort from those four forwards and Jasmine Walker, who missed the game with an ankle injury.
Alabama certainly did not play its best game on Sunday, narrowly defeating the now 5-16 Commodores at home, but more importantly, said sophomore guard Jordan Lewis, the team dug deep and eked out a win to get back above .500 in SEC play.
“I think the main goal on our team is to let go of whatever happened and play the next play,” Lewis said. “Because at the end of the day, all you need to win is by one at the buzzer. If you start down 10, you just have to not try to get it all back at one time and you’ll get it back.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports