Mississippi State at Alabama
Where: Coleman Coliseum
When: Sunday, noon
Records: Mississippi State 20-1, 8-0 SEC; Alabama 11-10, 3-5 SEC
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 100.1 FM
Coach Kristy Curry knew she had a large hole to fill after the Alabama women’s basketball team’s final game of the 2017-18 season, as she was going to lose six seniors.
That class included Hannah Cook, who finished her career with 262 3-point shots made (10 behind the program’s all-time mark), and Ashley Williams, who started 119 games (fourth all time) in her five years at Alabama.
Both scored more than 1,000 points in their career.
“At the end of the day, that’s what college basketball is all about,” Curry said before the 2018-19 season. “It’s somebody else’s turn. When your number is called, be ready.”
She brought in five three-star prospects.
In their first year at Alabama, the freshmen have made a combined 21 starts, led by Megan Abrams, who has started 10 games.
Just as it is for every sport, moving up a level takes an adjustment. Players are faster, stronger, more physical and a lot more talented than playing high school teams.
Alabama couldn’t wait for the freshmen to get acclimated. It simply didn’t have the depth to wait for them. The group adjusted and met the expectations placed on them.
“I like how they grew up,” sophomore forward Jasmine Walker said. “I know they had to grow up fast. You have to get the material and the concepts down quick, so I feel like they are handling that well.”
Abrams was one of the players that had to mature the fastest. She broke into the starting lineup while Alabama was in Orlando, Florida, for its last non-conference games of the year. Jordan Lewis broke her wrist while on the Florida trip, leaving a spot in the starting lineup open once conference play started.
She starts at the shooting guard position and while her stat line isn’t where she wants it to be, she puts in a lot of extra work, practicing before and after the mandatory practices.
“She’s one of the hardest workers,” Curry said. “She has really been unbelievable with her preparation. She barely misses a shot during practice, and I know that’s a big goal for her to carry over.”
Her best game of the conference schedule came in Alabama’s 86-65 blowout win against Tennessee. The 5-foot-9 guard didn’t score in the first half, but finished with eight in the second half, hitting four of her five shots in the last 20 minutes of the game.
Outside of her working on her craft, Abrams works on just learning from those around her.
“Just trying to soak up what coach and the older girls, who are more experienced, just soaking up what they’ve been telling me,” Abrams said.
Abrams and Alabama will try and pull off the upset for the second-straight game when they host No. 6 Mississippi State, which wins by an average of 34.8 points.
“Everybody has to step up,” Curry said. “We feel like our schedule, we have the 44th strength of schedule, has prepared us.”
Tip is set for noon.