The season ended for the Alabama women’s basketball team Friday in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Basketball Tournament, but no one could doubt that the Crimson Tide program is headed in the right direction.
After wins over Vanderbilt and Tennessee to start the tournament, Coach Kristy Curry’s Alabama team came up short against No. 20 Kentucky, 65-55, at the Bon Secopurs Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C.
Alabama dropped to 19-13, while Kentucky improved to 21-9.
One might have thought it was the Kentucky men’s team playing as the Wildcats shot 26 free throws (making 22) to the Crimson Tide hitting only 7-10.
“Just a credit to Kentucky today,” said Curry. “I think if you look at the stat sheet, the difference in the game was the free throw line. We both had 20 baskets, but you can't allow someone to shoot that many free throws.”
Junior Hannah Cook scored a season-high 22 points, 18 of which came from three-point range, while juniors Meoshonti Knight and Ashley Williams added nine apiece. Williams’ sixth point of the game, which came at the 3:00 mark of the fourth from the free throw line was the 1,000th of her career. She also finished with a team-high seven rebounds. Freshman Jordan Lewis led the game in assists with seven.
Kentucky had four finish in double figures, led by senior Evelyn Akhator’s 23-point performance. She also had nine rebounds, three assists and one steal. Fellow senior Makayla Epps added 12 points, five rebounds, one assist, and one steal.
“I thought that Akhator and Epps did what seniors do, combine for 35 points,” said Curry. “I know we have a lot of positives to look forward to. Certainly a great run by a great group of kids. Disappointed in the outcome, but also very, very excited about the future.”
Alabama started the game with five unanswered points, but Kentucky would respond with the next five to even the game at the 7:02 mark. Cook knocked down her second three on the next possession, however the Wildcats would go on to edge the Tide in a back and forth battle to end the quarter with a three-point lead, 17-14.
Kentucky outscored Alabama, 11-3, over the first six minutes of the second quarter to pull in front by 10, 28-18. From there, the Tide would score nine of the next 13 points to end the half and cut the deficit to six heading into the locker room down 32-26.
Alabama made it a three-point game after collecting four of the first five points of the third quarter, but Kentucky scored the next seven to push it back out to 10 at 40-30, at the 7:13 mark. Cook responded by knocking down back-to-back threes for the Tide, but the Wildcats would close the third period on a 14-6 run to lead by 12 heading into the final quarter.
Alabama made a late run in the fourth, cutting the Kentucky advantage to six, but would come no closer.