Alabama exhausted its introductory song on Thursday night, waiting until inside the final minute of the pregame clock to take the court against No. 16 Texas A&M. The Crimson Tide was also slow when the game started.
The Crimson Tide missed its first 10 shots from the floor, falling into an early hole and never completely recovering in its 73-54 loss to the Aggies in Coleman Coliseum.
For the first time this season Alabama was without its leading rebounder, Ashley Williams, who did not play with an upper-body injury. Just seconds before the game, Williams jogged onto the floor and gave every starter a handshake.
That encouragement was a good sign, but Alabama was clearly hurting in the post with her unavailable.
“(Williams) is just so vocal, and she leads by her energy and her effort,” Alabama coach Kristy Curry said. “She’s also a really vocal leader for us, and I thought that we were completely mute. I was disappointed. I’ve asked these kids the past two days to step up and be uncomfortable a little bit.”
Texas A&M dominated the glass for the entire game, winning the rebounding battle 45-31, of which 15 came on the offensive end for the Aggies, and they turned the extra possessions into 20 second-chance points.
Aggies center Khaalia Hillsman did the most damage against Alabama’s smaller lineup, scoring 20 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking five shots. Hillsman ranks sixth in the SEC in rebounding, averaging eight per game.
“I give credit to my teammates,” Hillsman said. “They gave me the ball in places where I can score easy. So, when I do my work early they reward me. They gave me the passes so I could finish.”
If it weren’t for sophomore Jordan Lewis, the game could have gotten ugly for Alabama in the first half. The point guard made a career-high 5 of 8 on 3-point attempts in the game, and had already matched her previous career-high in the opening 20 minutes.
Two of Lewis’ four long-range buckets ended 8-0 and 11-4 runs by the Aggies that had given coach Gary Blair’s team a comfortable lead. At half the 5-foot-7 ball-handler also had a team-high four rebounds to go along with her 12 points.
“I just keep shooting the ball,” Lewis said. “I feel like I haven’t fulfilled my role on the team yet. Even though we’ve been winning, we haven’t been winning clean and I’ve lacked discipline. So, I felt like if I just kept shooting I would eventually make them.”
Although Blair used his substitutes for far fewer minutes than the Crimson Tide, the Aggies nearly matched UA’s production from the bench. Three Texas A&M starters played at least 31 minutes, but the bench players were still able to chip in 21 points.
Coming into the game against the Aggies, Alabama’s bench was outscoring opponents by nine points per game.
“I’m just really disappointed tonight in our effort,” Curry said. “That’s the bottom line. Not much else to say other than that.”
The loss moves Alabama to 0-7 against the Aggies since Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2013. Next up for Alabama is another home game Sunday against Vanderbilt.