By Drew Hill,
Special to The Tuscaloosa News
Alabama women’s basketball has advanced further than it has in 16 years, so it’s only appropriate that the Crimson Tide moved past the team that cut its run short one season ago.
UA’s 72-64 victory over Tulane means coach Kristy Curry’s team is headed to the Elite Eight of the WNIT, but it took added energy and some hot shooting for the Crimson Tide to shake off its familiar opponent Thursday night.
“Remembering who ended our season last year (gave the team energy),” Alabama junior Quanetria Bolton said. “ We tried to come out and be better than we were last game. We know we didn’t have a good start so we focused on having a good warmup today.”
The energy showed as the game started at a blazing pace. Alabama wasted no time firing shots off early into possessions. But where the Crimson Tide found the most success was dumping the ball down to its post players with 20-plus remaining on the shot clock. The Green Wave’s respect for the Crimson Tide’s post players showed early, as UA junior Ashley Williams earned two assists by passing the ball out to perimeter shooters once Tulane players collapsed the middle of the floor.
After Alabama’s last matchup against Arkansas-Little Rock, Williams said one of the Crimson Tide’s goals of the tournament would be to work its offense from the inside-out. Against the Trojans, UA missed its outside shots, but it didn’t miss much in the early going against Tulane.
“Move without the ball,” Bolton said. “Every single play you have to move, and that’s kind of how we got our open shots.”
Tulane coach Lisa Stockton acted quickly to force Alabama into something different. The Green Wave turned up the pressure on Alabama’s guards in the half-court to try to disrupt the passes into the post.
It worked. Alabama saw a 13-point decrease in scoring from the first quarter to the second, but managed to maintain a nine-point lead going into halftime by slowing the pace and grabbing four offensive rebounds. The improved defense was a chance for Tulane to catch its breath, but it wasn’t consistent enough to hold the Crimson Tide for an entire 40 minutes.
Cook and Bolton went into the final 20 minutes with the green light behind the arc. The two juniors scored the first 10 points of the third quarter, and kept the Green Wave at bay during the beginning of its offensive push.
“I think our kids certainly learned from a year ago,” Curry said. “Again our team found a way to stay composed down the stretch, and last year we did not. So that shows growth by us.”
Together, the two juniors combined for seven of nine shooting from behind the 3-point line, with 31 points and 12 rebounds. Cook, Alabama’s leading scorer, struggled in the Crimson Tide’s previous game against Arkansas-Little Rock, but bounced back in a big way with an efficient seven of 10 shooting for a game-high 70 percent.
“You have to be consistent, and my teammates got me open,” Cook said. “You have to wait on screens, but honestly it comes from practice, I had good practices.”
Alabama will move on to face Georgia Tech in the Elite Eight of the WNIT, with location and time to be determined. The Crimson Tide defeated the Yellow Jackets 67-65 in Coleman Coliseum earlier this season.