On several occasions, Alabama women’s basketball had chances to close out the visiting No. 19 Georgia Lady Bulldogs and record a ranked win to catch the eyes of the NCAA Tournament committee.
The Crimson Tide could never close the deal, though, going cold at dire moments in the game. For a six-minute stretch from the end of the third quarter to midway through the fourth, the team scored zero points and only got two shots off.
After the teams finished regulation deadlocked at 40 points apiece, Alabama endured another ghastly stretch, going 0-for-8 in overtime and handing the game over to Georgia, who gladly accepted, triumphing 49-43.
“We just needed a stop there at the end of regulation and we couldn’t get it,” head coach Kristy Curry said. “I thought [Georgia was] able to make some plays in overtime and we just weren’t… It’s a back-and-forth game, and sometimes it just is who can make a play at a critical moment.”
She added that to fault the players’ effort would be misidentifying the issue, instead saying her players took too long to recover from tough stretches.
“Where we need to grow up is when we make a mistake, to learn to play the next play,” Curry said. “Going into overtime, I was disappointed in that ‘look’. We did everything we could to snap them out of that… But at some point, you’ve got to do that yourself and you’ve got to grow up.”
Georgia’s defense ranks first in the SEC in opposing field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage, so it wasn’t surprising that Alabama struggled so mightily.
What did come as a surprise was that the Crimson Tide, on a three-game winning streak, found a way to even force overtime despite an off night shooting the ball and being out-rebounded 42-31 in regulation.
The outlook looked bleak in the fourth quarter, but the tides finally turned in the final minutes as the seniors took control in what could have been their final home game. They scored nine of the team’s last 10 points in regulation, taking a 40-38 lead with 16 seconds to go.
“It hurt [to lose after forcing overtime],” senior guard Meo Knight said. “It’s our last game in here, but like [Curry] said, we still have a long season ahead of us. We still have an opportunity, we still have a chance, so we still have to look forward to next week.”
On the bright side, after losing 22 straight games against ranked opponents dating back to January 2014, the team was agonizingly close to getting a second one in seven days.
Alabama also played one of its best defensive games of the year, holding Georgia to a shooting percentage of just over one-third and 1-of-13 shooting from three-point range. It also forced 27 turnovers, a season high by seven for the Lady Bulldogs.
“We were in a hurry, we were rushing things,” Georgia head coach Joni Taylor said. “I think we were a little bit too unselfish tonight. There were times when we were passing the ball when it wasn’t there when we should’ve just kept it and made a different decision.”
Senior guard Hannah Cook furrowed her brow in confusion when she saw she had recorded a career-high eight steals on the postgame stat sheet, thinking she had recorded more rebounds than steals.
As the team attempts to move on from the heartbreaking loss, No. 24 LSU awaits a rematch on Sunday in Baton Rouge. The Crimson Tide took down the Lady Tigers in Tuscaloosa on Jan. 11, and Curry encouraged her players that there’s still plenty to play for.
“We had a lot of tears in that locker room tonight, and I don’t want that, because our kids battled their tails off tonight and our season’s a long way from over,” Curry said. “In the locker room it was about ‘Let’s go to LSU and enjoy this road trip together and let’s go work to get a win.’”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports