The Arkansas Razorbacks had lost seven of their last eight games, including their last four, and were 2-7 in the SEC. They also lost to Alabama by seven points at home on Jan. 7. The outcome of Sunday’s rematch in Coleman Coliseum seemed in little doubt at tipoff.
Sunday’s result, then, must have come as a slap in the face to head coach Kristy Curry and the rest of Alabama’s women’s basketball team. The Crimson Tide led for only 23 seconds of game time en route to a 74-66 loss.
“I’m just disappointed today,” Curry said. “Beyond Jordan [Lewis] and NeNe [Bolton], we just didn’t have a lot today. It felt like were coaching effort, it felt like we were coaching demeanor, it felt like we were coaching a will… It’s just disappointing. I don’t have an explanation for it.”
Arkansas kept Alabama at bay with hot shooting, going 15-of-30 in the second and third quarters combined. The Crimson Tide kept fighting, winning the fourth quarter 24-16, but overtaking a 16-point lead was just too tall an order.
Curry said on Friday that defending the three-point line and limiting Arkansas’ open looks would be essential to getting the win. Alabama’s failure to do that, along with its 1-of-10 three-point shooting, were a formula for disaster.
“We’ve got four different sessions throughout the week [where] we spend 30 extra minutes shooting the basketball,” Curry said. “We just have to shoot the ball with more confidence. Your will has to be stronger than your skill. I can’t shoot it for them. They have to shoot the ball.”
That one three-pointer was made by Lewis with 34 seconds left in the game. It gave her 22 points for the game, tying a career high from last year against Ole Miss. Her two highest-scoring games this year have come against the Razorbacks.
“It really started on the defensive end for me,” Lewis said. “I feel like I was giving up a lot of drives on the defensive end [last week], so I thought I could turn the defense into offense. Coach Curry was telling us to reverse it on them, get the ball out quick, and score on them in transition.”
On days like Sunday, when the ball just refuses to go through the hoop, Lewis said the team likes to play inside-out, focusing on getting to the free throw line and enabling easy layups to get players’ confidence back.
In the teams’ first meeting a month ago, Arkansas guard Devin Cosper recorded a double-double with 24 points and 13 rebounds. She also made all 12 free throws she attempted.
This time around, she was not as productive on the glass, accruing three rebounds, and only shot two free throws, but she still scored 21 points. Behind her, three more players scored at least 10 points, including guard Malica Monk’s 17.
“[Cosper] played like a senior needs to play at this time of year,” Curry said. “I thought Monk was really steady… to get that nine from their bench was really big. [Cosper and Monk] did a great job of making everybody around them play with a great sense of urgency today.”
Alabama will remain at home for its next game, hosting No. 7 South Carolina, the defending national champions, at 6 p.m. CT on Thursday. The Gamecocks are 18-4 overall and 7-2 in the SEC.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports