By (James Ogletree)

As Alabama women’s basketball tears the page for January off the calendar and presses on into February, the team realizes it’s now or never if it wants to have any hope of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.

The Crimson Tide limps into the final month of the regular season with four losses and a two-point win in its last five games. Over the last few weeks, its ranking in the Rating Percentage Index has dropped from 64th to 86th.

“We can’t go back and do anything about our last 10 days, but we can have a great ending to this,” head coach Kristy Curry said. “February is a season of its own and teams determine their destiny in February. We’re excited about the opportunities that lie ahead and I think we’ve learned and I think we’re better.”

What lies immediately ahead is a Super Bowl Sunday home game against the Arkansas Razorbacks, whom Alabama beat for the first time in seven years on Jan. 7. Arkansas ranks in the bottom two in the SEC in field goal percentage, three-point percentage and assists, and has lost seven of its last eight games.

But, as Alabama learned in its two most recent losses – to teams that were a combined 2-11 in the SEC at the time – there’s a reason they play the games. On any given night, especially in the SEC, anybody can beat anybody.

“It’s the deepest, most talented league in the country year in and year out, and I don’t think this year’s any different,” Curry said. “Each day is a brand new season in its own. We were playing our best basketball toward the end of the season last year, and that’s what we feel like we can do again.”

Curry identified guards Malica Monk and Devin Cosper as Arkansas’ most talented players; the two combined for 45 points in the loss to the Crimson Tide a month ago. Cosper recorded a double-double of 24 points and 13 rebounds, and was lethal at drawing fouls and converting the free throws, going 12-of-12 from the line.

For Alabama to get a crucial home win, Curry said her players must defend the three-point line, contain the Razorbacks’ “special” transition play, and limit their easy looks.

Senior forward NeNe Bolton said the Crimson Tide will look to improve a few things from the teams’ last meeting, even though Alabama escaped Fayetteville with a victory.

“We have to defend better,” Bolton said. “We gave up some open shots at the end of the game and let them back in. If we defend and rebound like we’re supposed to, we can win.”

Another aspect of utmost importance will be protecting the ball, which Alabama did not do in its last outing. Its 25 turnovers against Auburn last Sunday were the second-highest of the season.

Curry gave credit to Auburn, saying the Tigers played their best game of year, but chalked the turnovers up to lapses in fundamentals, ranging from poor decision-making to not being strong enough with the ball.

During the team’s Friday morning practice, a “Thought for the Day” on a white board read: “Life and basketball are both decided by inches.”

“We just live life and go out there and leave everything on the court,” senior forward Ashley Williams said. “This could be overtomorrow… We’re going to go out there and work our tails off to get ready for Sunday.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports