By Drew Hill
Special to The Tuscaloosa News
It looked as if it might be a bitter ending for Alabama women’s basketball after 30 minutes against Arkansas-Little Rock. Freshman point guard Jordan Lewis made sure the ending of this season stays sweet for the time being.
Lewis completed the Crimson Tide’s fourth-quarter comeback, grabbing her own rebound with five seconds to play in the game, and putting another shot back up for the game-winning layup. It gave UA the 55-53 victory, and advanced them to the round of 16 in the Women’s NIT.
“(The play) broke down,” Lewis said. “(The coaches) always tell us to just play and attack when you’re in trouble, and that’s exactly what I did.”
Lewis’ clutch shot was just the finish to an outstanding fourth quarter for the Crimson Tide. Alabama trailed by seven to begin the final segment, but was able to use its press to turn the Trojans over and generate more offensive possessions. The Crimson Tide outscored Little Rock 14-5 in the last quarter, and found a way to win, despite leading for just over one minute in the game.
“I thought the difference in the game was when we picked up the pressure, and went to our half-court trap and then our full-court defense,” Alabama coach Kristy Curry said. “We just made things really, really hard on the catch.”
It wasn’t until the final quarter that UA found any real success on the defensive end. Arkansas-Little Rock started the game by shooting 71 percent from the floor, and at the first long timeout it had built an eight-point lead over the Crimson Tide.
After falling behind, Alabama went back to what worked in it’s first WNIT game, pounding the paint. 10 of Alabama’s first 14 points came from the colored area, and it took a 3-point jumper from Quanetria Bolton at 6:09 mark of the second quarter to end the Crimson Tide’s misery from outside the paint.
“The goal was to go inside and then kick it back out for us setting up for threes,” Alabama forward Ashley Williams said. “That didn’t go as planned, but we did get it inside for most of the game.”
Little Rock made six of 10 3-point attempts against Alabama, using its motion offense to find open jump shots from all over the floor against Alabama’s defense. If the Trojan shot was open, it was rare that it didn’t go in the basket.
The game’s leading scorer was Little Rock’s Sharde’ Collins. The Trojan senior scored 20 points, and she did it efficiently. Her eight of 14 shooting was the highest percentage for Little Rock, and it was enough to score the 1000th point of her Trojan career.
For the second-straight game it was Williams leading the Crimson Tide in scoring, contributing 15 points on six of eight shooting, while also grabbing nine rebounds.
Alabama will play the winner of Tulane and Grambling State in the round of 16 this week. Curry confirmed that the game will be played at Coleman Coliseum with date and time to be determined.