By Terrin Waack
Special to The Tuscaloosa News
Kiana Winston accomplished something many gymnasts will never achieve: complete perfection.
The University of Alabama junior last Friday became one of three gymnasts nationally to score a perfect 10 on the floor exercise this season. The others are Florida’s Kennedy Baker and Michigan’s Nicole Artz.
For the event, Winston is ranked fourth with a 9.938 average. Except, she’s not just a floor threat. She’s also Alabama’s strongest overall weapon.
“It’s exciting for her to have put in so much work on all four events and be able to go out there and display it,” UA head coach Dana Duckworth said.
Winston averages a 39.469 all-around score to tie with Oklahoma’s Chayse Capps for seventh. The two also share the same season-high 39.7.
Despite posting a 197.825 to equal the second-highest mark in the nation, Alabama retains its No. 6 spot in the rankings. The same goes for Florida, which is still No. 3 after falling in Tuscaloosa.
The upsets don’t necessarily matter. Neither do the records. What’s important is team averages, and Alabama’s took a hit two weeks ago that’s going to be hard to recover from.
“When you’re carrying two 195s right now, you can’t really focus on what the rankings do and the scores,” Duckworth said.
The Crimson Tide’s average was 196.44 last week and is now 196.671.
Up next, Alabama heads to No. 10 Kentucky.
Junior Mackenzie Brannan had to get a small bone chip removed from her ankle, per Duckworth, and will be out for a couple weeks to heal. She joins sophomore Angelina Giancroce, who had surgery after a ruptured Achilles and hasn’t competed, as the two gymnasts who can’t fully practice right now.
Taking a break
The SEC is fast, it’s pressing, it’s grueling and it’s physically demanding. It takes a lot out of every team. So when the Alabama women’s basketball team has six-day break from action, it’s used to recover. Unfortunately for the Crimson Tide, what it gained in rest was equaled in rust.
After taking two days off the previous week, Alabama scored a season-low 41 points at LSU last Sunday. The Crimson Tide had a four-point lead entering the fourth quarter, but managed to score just two points in the final segment, coming up short on the road for the second straight time.
The last two fourth quarters have not gone the way Alabama had intended. Auburn and LSU both entered the final 10 minutes trailing the Crimson Tide, but finished by outscoring UA by 14 and 11 points, respectively, to flip the scoreboard. In Baton Rouge, Alabama was held scoreless for nearly seven minutes between the third and fourth quarter, and the Crimson Tide did not have a 3-point basket in the final segment.
On the offensive end, no team in the SEC has done a better job than the Crimson Tide at getting to the free throw line. However, Alabama is also shooting the lowest percentage from the stripe in the conference: 551 attempts and only 354 makes translates to just 64.7 percent.
– Drew Hill
Taking a hit
The Alabama men’s basketball team’s dream of making it to the NCAA Tournament by any route other than an SEC Tournament title probably met its early demise last week with losses at Arkansas (survivable) and, for a second time, against Auburn at home (likely fatal). As a result, the Crimson Tide’s official NCAA-issued RPI dipped to No. 77 nationally on Monday morning.
The one silver lining for Alabama going forward is that the SEC seems to be gradually getting better, an improvement that will pay benefits down the road.
“I sense (the SEC) is improving,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “Coach (Rick) Barnes (of Tennessee) talked about it on our teleconference this morning. We still don’t get enough credit in the SEC for a league that it is improving. I’ll take our top three teams and put Kentucky, Florida and South Carolina against any teams in the country.”
Those three teams all rank in the Top 20 in the Monday RPI: Kentucky at No. 7, Florida at No. 12 and South Carolina at No. 14. Two more SEC teams – Tennessee (35) and Arkansas (36) – have top-40 RPIs. That’s an improvement from last season, when the SEC barely managed to place three teams in the 68-team NCAA field.
“You look in the middle of the league and down, and you still have teams that can win. We were at 6-2 (in the SEC) and maybe had a chance to pick up a couple of wins but we lose to Arkansas and Auburn. Then Arkansas goes to Columbia and loses to Missouri, or Tennessee loses to Mississippi State. You can lose in this league almost anywhere, especially on the road.
“That’s what I told our team today. From here on, the SEC is going to be for men only. No boys will be allowed.”
– Cecil Hurt