Meoshonti Knight and Shaquera Wade carried Alabama to a 65-60 victory over Utah on Monday night.
It was a forgettable first half for coach Kristy Curry’s team. Alabama (2-0) shot just 29 percent from the floor, and trailed 30-25 on the scoreboard after 20 minutes. On top of the shooting struggles, the Crimson Tide was also outrebounded by the Utes (1-1), and scored 10-fewer points off the bench. Curry’s team was getting beat at its own game, and it made for an alarming wake-up call.
“We weren’t able to make some shots,” Curry said about the slow start. “I think at one point Hannah (Cook), (Knight) and (Wade), were three of 18 to start the game. I knew that wouldn’t stay that way.”
The Crimson Tide got off to a much better start in the second half, making five of its first seven shots to start the second half, and turning the two misses into second-chance points. The halftime adjustments were obvious, attack the basket with Wade and Knight. There wasn’t much the Utes could do to stop them.
The two guards took turns passing the ball back-and-forth to each other as they waited for a path to get to the basket. When the lane finally cleared, there was no failure to finish the play with contact. Knight and Wade converted three 3-point plays in the quarter, and combined for 21 points in the 10-minute span, which was five more points than Utah would score in any quarter of the game. The dominant performance was just the thing Alabama needed to steal back a 48-46 lead heading into the fourth quarter, and give a struggling offense some confidence.
“Different players step up at different times, and it just happened to be me and (Wade) today,” Knight said. “It might be two other people next time, but we have to have someone who is going to step up and take the load.”
The final 10 minutes featured much of the same. Alabama found more success on the inside, and despite the little production from its bench was able to make enough hustle plays to possess the ball and drain the clock. Utah would cut the Alabama lead to two with just 28 seconds to play, but the Crimson Tide sealed the game with free throws by Quanetria Bolton and Hannah Cook.
That was a good sign for Curry, who was noticeably happy with the effort that she got out of her team in the final minutes. Last season Alabama struggled to make free throws down the stretch, but it made five out of six from the line when it mattered on Monday.
“I think as a coach you want to see when your players’ hard work pays off,” Curry said. “They’ve worked hard on (free throws) and they’ve bought in. They’ve all done all the things we’ve asked them to do in practice and beyond.”
Knight finished with 17 points and five rebounds to lead the Crimson Tide. The senior was still 12 points shy of her career-high. Right behind Knight were fellow guards Cook, who finished with 14 points and seven rebounds, and Wade, who finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.
The win marks the first win over a power-five opponent this season for Curry’s team. Alabama will play a home game against Jacksonville University on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. in its annual 5th Grade Fastbreak game.
“(The win) is important,” Curry said. “We’ve tried to increase our schedule, and this is definitely going to be one of those in March that we’re going to circle.”