By Stan J. Griffin: January 5, 2017
THE SCORE: Alabama women's basketball team 90, Ole Miss 80, as the Crimson Tide holds off the Rebels in a wild and physical affair to even its record in Southeastern Conference play.
The Crimson Tide came out hot in the first quarter as it hit 10 of its 19 shots in the period, including all five of its attempt from 3-point range. Alabama led by a slim 13-11 margin before juniors Hannah Cook and Meo Knight led the Tide on an 8-0 run to swell the lead to 21-11. Alabama led 26-13 after one as Knight hit a trey at the buzzer.
With the score 32-17 in the second period, the Rebels scored eight in a row to trim the UA advantage to 32-25, and a late 8-2 Ole Miss surge allowed it to cut Alabama's lead to 39-33 at halftime.
Alabama's lead stayed in double digits for most of the third period, and Cook came up big in a late 11-2 Tide surge in the period to propel the Tide to a 63-46 advantage heading to the final 10 minutes.
With Alabama up 75-61 with just under four minutes left in regulation, the Rebels scored 17 of the next 26 points to trim the home team's lead to 84-78 with only 43 seconds remaining, but Knight and company were able to seal the game at the free throw line.
SITE: Coleman Coliseum, Attendance: 2,588
RECORDS: Alabama 13-2 (1-1 in SEC play), Ole Miss 12-3 (1-1 SEC)
KEY STARS FOR THE TIDE: Knight led the Crimson Tide with a game-high and career-high 29 points, which included an 11-14 performance from the free throw line, and she also added three rebounds, two assists and a team-high three steals. Fellow junior Cook added 18 points, including three treys, and she had four rebounds, two assists and a steal. Sophomore Shaq Wade and freshman Jordan Lewis had 12 and 11 points respectively and Wade led the team with seven boards. Lewis led the Tide with seven assists and freshman Ashley Knight tallied five blocks.
GOOD NUMBERS: The Crimson Tide shot nearly 50 percent from the field for the game, including 53 percent in the first quarter and just over 64 percent in the third. The Tide also hit six treys and went to the free throw line 50 times. Alabama won the battle of the boards 42-29 and forced 17 Rebel turnovers. Alabama outscored the visitors 28-26 in the paint and 16-12 off turnovers.
NOT SO GOOD NUMBERS: The Crimson Tide committed 20 turnovers in the contest and were outscored in bench points 32-13. Although Alabama had 50 free throw attempts, it missed 14 of those chances. The Tide hit only three of its 12 shot attempts in the second quarter after the hot first-quarter start. The Rebels made the game close late by outscoring the Tide 34-27 over the final 10 minutes.
COACH SPEAK: "I’m really excited for our team,” said Tide head coach Kristy Curry. “To bounce back the way we did with the character and toughness against a very, very good Ole Miss team. That's a really good team and a really improved team. They're going to beat a lot of people in our league this year. I just thought it was a really great SEC game. Both teams just played their hearts out, and we were very thankful to make a few plays down the stretch and put ourselves in a position, with some free throws, to win the game.”
"I didn't feel like we (lost any composure down the stretch when Ole Miss made its run), knowing them as well as I do," said Curry. "I didn't sense any sort of panic and I didn't think our kids became passive because of it. It was definitely chaotic and I look forward to going back and watching. We made plays when we had to."
PLAYER SPEAK: "I mean, you just have to fight through (the fact that the game became very physical at times, especially in the second half)," said Cook. "They're going to overplay me because I shoot the three, but you just have to keep your composure."
NEXT UP FOR THE TIDE: Curry's team hits the road for its next matchup, traveling to Columbia, Mo. to take on the Missouri Tigers on Sunday, Jan. 8. Tip is set for 2 p.m. CT on SEC Network +.
Special thanks: Alabama Athletics Communications