By (James Ogletree)

Beginning with Sunday’s game at Ole Miss, Alabama women’s basketball head coach Kristy Curry declared the team’s remaining four games as a “two-week season” that will define how the players and coaches will look back on this year.

In order to make the most of the two-week season, the team is maintaining a narrow focus on being 1-0 for each game. Looking ahead to future opponents and considering tournament seedings have a time and a place, Curry said, but not during a late-season run.

“All four [remaining games] are important,” Curry said. “A win in this league is a win in this league at this time of year. Teams at 7-9 and 8-8 and 9-7 [in SEC play] have gotten in [to the NCAA Tournament]. That’s what gives us hope and we need to finish strong for a lot of reasons.”

The grit the Crimson Tide, which is now 5-7 in conference games, showed in its 82-79 win at Ole Miss helped the team to its first win in three weeks. Sophomore guard Jordan Lewis said winning despite trailing by nine points in the first quarter shows how far the team has come.

“When things get down in games, we have to learn to stay together,” Lewis said. “I feel like last year we had a problem with facing adversity, and I feel like this year we built on to that. If you trust each other, and at the end of the day you play hard and give everything you have, most of the time you get the result you want.”

For the players to get the result they want on the road at Tennessee on Thursday, Curry said they must improve in the areas coaches pinpoint in practice. She added that has been the key to Alabama’s three wins over the Lady Vols in the last two seasons.

“I feel like our kids have gone out and executed the game plan,” Curry said. “That’s something that has fluctuated [this year] and we haven’t been consistent at. When we do that, we’re at our best, and those [three wins] are perfect examples of when we’ve gone out and executed the game plan.”

Instead of using those past successes as a motivator for Thursday’s game, Curry took the opposite approach, pointing out that Alabama has never won in Knoxville in the 54-game history of the series.

Mercedes Russell, Tennessee’s 6-foot-6 center, will do all she can to keep it that way. Russell leads the SEC in field goal percentage at 63.4 percent and nearly averages a double-double (16.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game).

“[We need to] rebound and box out and just try to limit her touches,” senior forward NeNe Bolton said. “She’s a great player, so credit to her. But [our strategy is] just sticking to the game plan and doing everything coaches have emphasized for the week.”

Playing the 11th-ranked team in the country on the road may not exactly seem like a treat, but Alabama views the road trip, as well as its Valentine’s Day dinner, as a chance to grow closer as a team.

After the win against Ole Miss, coaches had Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken delivered to the team bus, and the team stopped for ice cream on the way back to Tuscaloosa. Curry, Lewis and Bolton shared a laugh over the less-than-perfect quality of the ice cream, but said they enjoyed the time the players and coaches spent with one another.

“I think [those experiences bring us closer],” Bolton said. “It just builds those memories that we’ll look back and laugh about and cherish those moments.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports