When South Carolina, the reigning national champions of women’s basketball, crashed Coleman Coliseum on Thursday night, Alabama was seeking to snap a 13-game losing streak to the Gamecocks that stretched back to January 2008.
Through one quarter – minus two seconds, perhaps – there was a glimmer of hope that the home team could pull off a miraculous victory that would change the trajectory of the season.
As the final seconds of the first quarter ticked off the clock, Alabama had the ball and a one-point lead. South Carolina’s Bianca Jackson undercut a pass from sophomore guard Jordan Lewis and converted it into a layup at the buzzer.
That opening was all the Gamecocks needed, sparking a 12-0 run that left the Crimson Tide’s heads spinning over the next 2:29 of game time. They went on to win the game 79-66, doling Alabama its fourth straight loss and sixth in seven games.
“I thought our team really competed, but a team like South Carolina just [doesn’t] make a lot of mistakes,” head coach Kristy Curry said. “And we made too many. The numbers are there, we just aren’t cleaning those numbers up with finishes. You just can’t miss easy shots.”
As Curry alluded to, the loss was not for a lack of scoring opportunities, as Alabama won the rebounding battle 41-36. Junior guard Shaquera Wade hauled in four offensive rebounds in the game’s first 14 minutes and finished with six total, one shy of her season high.
Senior guard Hannah Cook racked up six rebounds on defense alone, one short of her own best this year.
“You need to be the most aggressive person; it doesn’t matter what game it is,” Cook said. “It’s effort and it’s just a will, so that was my main goal: to be more aggressive, sprint everywhere and go get boards.”
Despite Alabama’s efforts on the glass, the Gamecocks shot 9-of-12 in the second quarter, coasting a lead they would never relinquish. Over the same 10 minutes, the Crimson Tide shot just 4-of-18.
South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said she and her coaching staff knew Alabama’s offense depends on certain players shooting from their favorite spots, so they tried to move them around and force extra passes while also creating high-percentage shots for themselves.
Despite falling behind by as many as 19 early in the fourth quarter, the team battled back to within eight when sophomore guard Amber Richardson turned a steal into a layup with 3:08 remaining.
Alabama outscored South Carolina 36-34 in the second half, but couldn’t muster the firepower to come all the way back.
“To get 11 more shots, get to the free throw line 27 times, out-rebound them by six… Those are effort categories and those numbers don’t lie,” Curry said. “But are we happy? No. We’ve just got to learn from this experience and we’ve got to be better.”
South Carolina forward A’ja Wilson is one of the few players in the country for whom 21 points and nine rebounds could be called a disappointing night, but that it was for the likely national player of the year. Wilson said she didn’t feel good about her team’s showing and thought the Gamecocks could’ve played much better.
Curry lauded the toughness sophomore forward Jasmine Walker displayed in defending Wilson, saying she refused to concede anything to her superstar opponent.
“I just came with energy and effort, knowing who I was coming up against,” Walker said. “I just kept focused and tried to keep the ball out of her hands as much as possible.”
After this hard-fought battle with the No. 7 team in the country, the Crimson Tide’s next game should come a little easier. The team will travel to Oxford, Mississippi to play the Ole Miss Rebels, who are 1-9 in SEC play this season.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports