This story was updated (2/27/23) to include quotes from the postgame press conferences and to update SEC Tournament matchups.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The storybook ending just wasn’t meant to be for Alabama on Senior Day.
The Tide (mostly) controlled their own destiny headed in. With a win – and a Mississippi State loss to a nearly-undefeated LSU – Alabama would secure the 4-seed and a double-bye in the SEC Tournament.
Instead, after a pair of Ole Miss free throws put them up 2 with just 3.5 seconds remaining, Jada Rice’s final shot was blocked and the Rebels completed their “heist” of the 4-seed in the SEC, 57-55.
“It was going to Brittany and Jada was supposed to stop and hand it off to Hannah, who was wide open. That’s okay though… Credit her for trying to make a play,” head coach Kristy Curry said when asked what went wrong on the final possession.
Understandably, Curry was quick to pardon Rice from any blame.
“I just want everyone to understand it didn’t come down to the last minute. There were plays before that that we should have made,” Curry said.
“I just knew we had 3 seconds, I didn’t think we had time for anything else, but it’s just something we’ve got to work on,” Rice said.
And while a somber mood filled the air of the Tide’s postgame press conference, the Rebels’ coach couldn’t have been more excited about her team’s triumph.
“To come here, on [Alabama’s] senior night and pull off what we call a heist, is just incredible, because they’re a good team,” said Ole Miss head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin.
Sunday’s loss marks the third straight to end the regular season, but Curry was adamant on the fact that there’s more basketball to be played.
“Today is hard, but I think the most important thing is to understand the body of work and what this team has accomplished.”
“Nothing changes the opportunity to go the SEC Tournament, to compete for a championship, and the opportunity to go and compete in the NCAA Tournament, to do something that hasn’t been done in a long time.”
ESPN’s Bracketology – which was last updated prior to Sunday’s loss – has the Crimson Tide as an 8-seed in the NCAA Tournament in the Greenville region.
Aaliyah Nye led the Tide with 12 points, including back-to-back threes to tie the game with under 2 minutes remaining.
Brittany Davis scored 11 points (3-14) and tallied six rebounds and three assists.
With the loss, Alabama falls into a tie for fifth place with Mississippi State. The Bulldogs hold the tiebreaker (season-series), so the Tide will be the 6-seed in the SEC Tournament.
How it Happened
Early on senior day, Alabama couldn’t get much of anything to fall on offense.
The first quarter saw the Tide shoot just 12.5% from the field (2-6). Despite this, Alabama was able to keep themselves in the game by getting to the line and converting 5 of their 7 free throws.
In the second, it was much of the same story, although a late run from Alabama put them in prime position for the second half.
Barker scored back-to-back layups, a Davis steal turned into a wide-open Nye three, and the Crimson Tide were able to force a shot clock violation to close out the half. Even after the slow start on offense, Alabama was down just 1 headed into the locker room.
Alabama came out of halftime reinvigorated on both sides of the ball. Davis made an and-one three to give Alabama their first lead of the game, and the crowd exploded.
A few plays later, the Tide got a defensive stop, Davis pushed the ball down court and found Barber wide-open on the wing. The ensuing three had Curry more hyped up and animated than she’d been at any point all year.
The third quarter saw Alabama play some of their best transition basketball of the season, as 12 of their 17 points came on the fast break. Headed into the fourth, the Tide were up 6.
Back-and-forth the game went after some early mistakes from Alabama allowed the Rebels to tie the game up. A quarter-long battle ensued, with Ole Miss holding a late six-point lead with 2:19 to go.
Nye hit back-to-back triples to tie the game for Alabama, but three fouls on the last Rebel offensive possession put them on the line to close the game.
Alabama will travel to Greenville, S.C. to compete in the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament.
The Crimson Tide will begin play on Thursday, March 2, and will play the winner of Kentucky versus Florida. Tip will take place 25 minutes after game 5, which begins at 6 p.m. CT.
Photo Credit to UA Athletics.
Follow Nicholas Pursley on Twitter @nicholaspursley for 24/7 coverage of Alabama Women’s Basketball.