Women’s basketball toughens up on three-game win streak

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Women’s basketball toughens up on three-game win streak

CW / Austin Bigoney

CW / Austin Bigoney

CW / Austin Bigoney

CW / Austin Bigoney

Carey Reeder | @realCareyReeder, Staff Reporter

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On Nov. 6 after the Alabama women’s basketball team fell to Hampton 64-61 on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in its season opener, the long faces and quiet hallways inside Coleman Coliseum told the story. 

Alabama shot 27% from the field that night, and coach Kristy Curry challenged the players’ “toughness” to make shots. However, since that opening night debacle, the Crimson Tide has rattled off three straight wins, moved past those shooting woes and rewrote some history along the way.

Following a 67-54 road win against Clemson, Alabama posted 111 points in its win against Mercer, the most points scored by a Crimson Tide team since it put up 119 in 1994 against UNC-Asheville. 

The 41-point second quarter against Mercer was Alabama’s highest-scoring quarter since the NCAA changed to quarters from halves before the 2015-16 season. The 14 3-pointers in that game tied the Alabama record for 3-point baskets in a game set back in 1992 and again in 1993.

“We know we can make shots,” Curry said after the Mercer game. “We do it all the time in practice. We expect to shoot like that every game and build off this.”

Add a 74-62 road win over South Alabama on Thursday, and the Crimson Tide is poised to win three straight non-conference road games for the first time since 2000 on Sunday at Tulane. Alabama had not won back-to-back non-conference road games since 2002. 

This is the second consecutive year Alabama has started its season 3-1 after going 5-1 last season prior to its early-season tournament trip. Tulane is the last game for the Crimson Tide before it heads to Las Vegas, Nevada, for the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout on Nov. 29-30.

“We’ve grown as a team, and we’re more mature now than we were last year,” junior forward Jasmine Walker said. “We have all the pieces.”

How can a team that lost its opening game of the season in such gut-wrenching fashion turn it around in a matter of weeks? Scoring, and a lot of it. Alabama is averaging 84 points per game during its winning streak and is getting a massive lift from its bench, which is outscoring the starters 167-146. 

Last year’s leading scorer, senior guard Cierra Johnson, is picking up right where she left off by leading the Crimson Tide with 13.5 points per game.

Curry said before the season that the team’s depth will be its biggest strength this season. The pieces Walker alluded to have fallen into place and created a scoring by committee-type style for Alabama.

Six players, including Johnson, Walker (9.8), sophomore guard Brittany Davis (8.8), redshirt junior guard Jordan Lewis (8.5), junior forward Ariyah Copeland (8.5) and sophomore guard De’Sha Benjamin (7.0), are scoring more than seven points per game. The toughness challenge by Curry seems like a small dot in the rearview mirror for the Crimson Tide.

“We can score from so many different spots on the floor,” Curry said. “It’s a nice luxury to have. It rests on staying healthy, and we’re hoping for that.”

Lewis’ return to the starting point guard position after missing last year with a broken wrist has also been a huge boost for Alabama early this season. The No. 2-ranked active leader in assists in the SEC (301) leads the team this year with 14, and her willingness to get her teammates involved has instilled new life into the Alabama lineup.

Winning can fix a lot of things, and now with a fully healthy team that is hitting its stride this early in the season, it’s all about living in the moment.

“I’m thankful we’re all healthy now to come together and start a fresh season and not have any regrets,” Lewis said. “It’s been fun. It’s going to be fun, and there is no pressure.”