Auburn at Alabama
When: Thursday at 7 p.m.
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: Alabama 9-6, 1-1 SEC; Auburn 13-2, 1-1 SEC
TV: SEC Network+
Radio: 93.3 FM
Alabama vs. Auburn – the matchup that splits the state in half – adds its newest chapter on Thursday when the Tigers enter Coleman Coliseum.
The matchup will be the 88th time the rivals have squared off in women’s basketball, but Alabama coach Kristy Curry has preached to her team that this game shouldn’t be bigger than any of the other 16 SEC games on the schedule.
“At the end of the day, its one-sixteenth (of the SEC schedule) and its no less or no more important,” Curry said. “We want to win because it’s the next game on our schedule.”
Alabama has six players from the state, three of which are starters, while Auburn has only one player from Alabama.
Those seven players know what the rivalry means to the state, but like Curry, they are treating it just like any other game.
“For me, it’s just about listening to the coaches and executing the game plan,” guard Cierra Johnson said. “Just stay disciplined and work hard.”
The Tigers have one of the best overall records in the SEC at 13-2 (1-1 SEC). Auburn senior point guard Janiah McKay leads the team in scoring (14.7 points per game), assists (4.7) and steals (2.5). Forward Unique Thompson averages a double-double (13.3 points and 11.1 rebounds a game).
Four of the five Auburn starters average double-digit points. The only Tiger starter not in double figures is Emari Jones, who averages 9.8 points.
“When you look at their team they are extremely seasoned and experienced,” Curry said. “You’re seeing their success because of those experiences in the past, and they’ve worked to improve their percentage points from three… They have a great inside-outside game.”
Alabama has played three games without junior point guard Jordan Lewis, who broke her wrist bracing for a fall against Virginia on Dec. 20. Since then, Johnson moved to point guard, and freshman guard Megan Abrams entered the starting lineup.
In her four starts, Abrams has averaged 19 minutes, but has struggled shooting, making just 26 percent of her shots.
“It’s one of those situations that are unfortunate, but we know she’s doing everything she can,” Curry said. “She’s such a hard worker. If you walk by the door of the gym and the ball is bouncing, she’s one of the people getting extra shots up.”
In Alabama’s first two SEC games, Johnson and forward Jasmine Walker have been on a tear. The two are averaging 39 points per game and shooting a combined 13 of 24 from three.
“In the SEC, it just means more in the SEC,” Johnson said. “Everyone just wants it, everyone wants to win.”