Women’s NIT Sweet 16
- Who: Tulane at Alabama
- When: 7 p.m., Thursday
- Where: Coleman Coliseum
- Records: Alabama 21-13, Tulane 18-14
- Radio: 100.1 FM
By Drew Hill
Special to Tidesports.com
The rematch is set.
It would be unfair to label Alabama versus Tulane women’s basketball a rivalry, but there’s certainly some added focus from Alabama’s camp heading into Thursday night’s Sweet 16 game in the Women’s NIT.
The Crimson Tide hasn’t forgotten the Green Wave ended its season in the first round of the same tournament one year ago. That loss is playing a role in UA’s mentality with even more on the line in round two.
“I just have a ton of respect for (Tulane) and that community there, and what they have done for women’s basketball in south Louisiana,” Alabama coach Kristy Curry said. “I know they have my attention. But anytime you’re dealing with 18- to 22-year-olds and where their mind might be with an opponent, I certainly know with our team (losing to Tulane last season) has their attention.”
A bunch has changed since Alabama fell to Tulane in 2016. The newest version of Crimson Tide is playing deeper into the postseason than it ever has under Curry, and this time home court advantage will belong to UA.
“(Right now) is the most confident we have been,” Alabama junior Ashley Williams said. “Each game gets a little harder, so I think going from conference into the SEC Tournament helped us build our confidence.”
Williams, along with 6-foot-5 center Ashley Knight will be brand new faces for the Green Wave to attempt to deter in the post. In the first two WNIT games Williams has led UA with 34 points and 21 rebounds. When Williams and Knight are on the floor together, it gives the Crimson Tide a physical presence in the paint that it has lacked in the past. Both players are taller than any Tulane starters.
“I think we’re a different team,” Curry said. “I think we’re much improved. We are a lot deeper. We have more size. We just have a better inside-out presence with balance on our team than we’ve had, and that’s what you want to build toward.”
Alabama’s new talent won’t be catching Tulane by surprise. The Green Wave played a schedule that included four games against SEC teams and two games against Connecticut. Tulane’s 63-60 loss to the Huskies in New Orleans was the smallest margin of victory for Connecticut all season.
The Green Wave relies heavily on perimeter players Kolby Morgan, Leslie Vorpahl and Courtnie Latham to do its damage on the offensive end. The three experienced guards combine to average 37.7 points per game, accounting for 59 percent of Tulane’s scoring. Morgan, who hit the winning shot against UA last season, ranks 29th in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage at 40.8 percent.
“Their leadership and their experience on the perimeter will be as good as anyone we’ve played this year,” Curry said. “It’s going to be a challenge for us.”