Hannah Cook went into the stands to high-five fans before she walked off the floor in Alabama’s 80-61 win over Central Florida in the WNIT on Sunday. She was relieved, because it won’t be the last time she puts on the crimson and white with her teammates, and it also won’t be the last time she plays in Coleman Coliseum.
“I’m just trying to embrace the moment and be happy that we are playing again,” Cook said. “It’s real when you say ‘play like it’s your last.’ Well, it potentially could be my last.”
Standing in the senior’s way next game will be Georgia Tech, the team that eliminated the Crimson Tide in the quarterfinals of the WNIT last season. The Yellow Jackets and Crimson Tide will tip off at 7 p.m. in Coleman Coliseum on Thursday night.
“(Hosting the game) is awesome,” Cook said. “When they told me that, I was super happy. And it’s home court advantage, so that’s nice.”
UCF’s speed gave Alabama some trouble early in the game. The Knights started by trapping in the corners during the half court and playing defense on the inbounds after a made basket.
Alabama turned the ball over 10 times in the first 20 minutes but adjusted well to get past the Knights’ pressure for easy assists as the game progressed. Five Crimson Tide players finished with at least two assists.
“I thought they really did a great job of sharing the basketball,” Alabama coach Kristy Curry said. “I thought we played inside-out. … I think when you play within yourself and let the game come to you, it can really affect our team.
UCF’s defensive intensity wasn’t enough to counter Alabama’s length and size advantage on the inside.
The Crimson Tide out-rebounded the Knights 44-29, dominating the boards in the first half while sophomore point guard Jordan Lewis did Alabama’s scoring. The point guard also played well on defense, grabbing two steals that resulted in transition points.
“(Rebounding) was just always there for us because we brought so much energy being able to box out and go get the rebound,” sophomore forward Jasmine Walker said.
Lewis’ fellow sophomore, Walker, put in one of her best performances of the season, scoring 15 points and grabbing six rebounds over the smaller UCF post players. It was the type of performance Curry will need from Walker as she replaces Alabama’s senior bigs next season.
“At the end of the day, I think (Walker) and (Ariyah Copeland) both have just played great,” Curry said. “I think that our posts in the future — we have a bright future with Ashley Knight returning and with Gabby Crawford, Allie Craig Cruce and Shaquera Wade. With this group, as we went small at times with Ashley Williams at (center) it really allowed (Walker) to get some open looks at (power forward).”
The Crimson Tide’s lead ballooned up to 17 in the fourth quarter frustrating UCF into silly fouls including two technicals, with one coming from the bench. Fifth-year senior Ashley Williams had a big fourth quarter for the Crimson Tide, and Williams, Lewis, Walker and Cook all scored in double-digits.