On Hannah Cook’s first trip to Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee, she took out her phone and snapped a picture of the logo stamped a midcourt.
Before she started her warmup, she sent it to her friends. The text on the photo read “The Summitt,” named after one of the most iconic coaches in women’s basketball history.
When Cook was growing up — along with the rest of the Alabama women’s basketball roster — Tennessee was one of the premier programs in the country. How could any young women’s basketball player forget the years of dominance by coach Pat Summitt and superstar Candice Parker? To play on the same court as some of the game’s legends, that was a big deal.
Alabama at Tennessee
When: 5:30 p.m. CT Thursday
Where: Knoxville, Tennessee
Records: Alabama 15-10, 5-7 SEC, Tennessee 21-4, 9-3 SEC
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 93.3 FM
“I remember watching them, and they were great,” Cook said. “It’s the Tennessee Lady Volunteers. Everybody knew who they were.”
Cook still recalls the first live women’s college basketball game she attended. Because she was born in Arkansas, her family took her to see the Razorbacks play Tennessee during Summitt’s prime. She was impressed, just like any young player would, but her initial impression of the Lady Volunteers has had no impact on Cook’s psyche when facing the storied program as a player for the Crimson Tide.
Her Alabama teammates agreed.
“I get excited for every game,” fellow senior Quanetria Bolton said. “It’s just the (same) preparation that we take for every game. It’s the next game, so we’re excited. I know they are going to be excited to play as well.”
This group’s unruffled mindset toward the rival shows in the three-game winning streak the Crimson Tide carries into Knoxville on Thursday. Until this group of seniors ended the drought, it had been 32 years since Alabama had last taken down Tennessee. Winning three in a row against the Lady Volunteers, that was unheard of.
“(Tennessee) is just a powerhouse,” Cook said. “When you beat them it’s just a great feeling. So, doing it three times in a row was awesome.”
Now this Crimson Tide team is tasked with stealing the program’s first-ever win in Knoxville, and UA could really use it. At 5-7 in the conference, Alabama’s NCAA Tournament hopes are hanging by a thread. Perhaps the biggest knock on the Crimson Tide’s postseason resume is the absence of a signature win, because UA is 0-4 against ranked opponents this season.
“When you’re building and establishing a program you have to make sure (the players) understand that, because they haven’t had anyone before them show them that,” Alabama coach Kristy Curry said. “But, we’ve done it in a way that has been educational and not pressure-filled. … They weren’t born the last time (Alabama made the NCAA Tournament).”
No. 11 Tennessee is second in the conference standings, averaging 81 points per game. The Lady Vols are 12-1 at home with their lone loss coming to No. 2 Mississippi State.
“The freshman and sophomores have never been to The Summitt, so I’m sure they are excited about that,” Cook said. “It’s a lot of orange.”