Alabama controlled the boards and was dominant in the paint.
The Crimson Tide women’s basketball team won at the free-throw line and even the bench players chipped in, too.
But shutting down Kentucky superstar Rhyne Howard?
The All-SEC sophomore scored more than half the Wildcats’ points to lead No. 14 Kentucky over Alabama 81-71 on Thursday night at Coleman Coliseum.
Earlier this week Alabama coach Kristy Curry said the Crimson Tide could not afford to let Howard do what she did against Tennessee last week (37 points with 27 shots).
Howard didn’t take 27 shots, but she was an efficient 14 of 21, including 7 of 11 from 3-point range for 43 points. As a team, Kentucky was 16 of 21 on 3-pointers.
“Rhyne Howard is one of the best players I’ve ever seen,” Alabama coach Kristy Curry said. “She’s really special. The players around her understand their role and do a good job of sharing the ball.
“She hit seven three’s and I think our effort was poor defensively to give up nine other threes to everybody else.”
Alabama got off to a hot start, with Jordan Lewis driving to the basket and finding success and different players stepping up to score to take a 9-3 lead.
The Crimson Tide defense held Kentucky to a dismal 3 of 17 shooting from the floor. Howard was held to five points and the Wildcats were just 2 of 9 from 3-point range.
“Missing easy baskets in tough on you in this league and you don’t get them very often, so I think we took advantage of it at points in the game,” Lewis said. “But we also missed a lot of layups, too.”
Everything was looking good for Alabama. That changed in the second quarter.
Amanda Pashal hit two 3-pointers to get Kentucky to within three points and the rest of the team followed suit. Kentucky was 5 of 10 from 3-point range in the quarter with Howard scoring 12 points, including nine that was part of an 11-2 run to give the Wildcats a commanding 37-24 lead.
Amanda Pashal was the difference maker in the first half and we were nowhere near her and that’s not part of the game plan,“ Curry said. ”You can’t give up 43 points (to Howard), but you certainly can’t let players around her hit nine of the other 3-pointers.“
Alabama didn’t go away. Ariyah Copeland pounded the inside for two quick baskets and the Crimson Tide was down seven and back in the game early in the third quarter. Copeland scored 15 points to lead the Tide with Jasmine Walker, also with 15.
Alabama went back and forth the rest of the game but couldn’t get within six points of the Wildcats’ lead. Kentucky was 16 of 31 on 3-pointers while Alabama connected on just 4 of 13.
Lewis scored 11 points and Cierra Johnson had eight for Alabama.
The Crimson Tide (10-6, 0-3 SEC) is on the road against Auburn on Sunday.
Reach Edwin Stanton at 205-722-0226, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @edwinstantonu2