Women's basketball splits in tournament

MALIBU, Calif. ­ Two games and two nail-biters but this time the Crimson Tide was on the losing end falling 81-79 to Pepperdine in the championship game of the Pepperdine Thanksgiving Tournament on Saturday night.

The Tide overcame a double-digit first half deficit to make a game of the contest but came up just short in the closing seconds. The loss was UA's first of the season dropping Alabama to 3-1 while the Waves improved to 2-2.

"Pepperdine came out and played very inspired, but I expected that," said UA head coach Rick Moody. "It was a tough loss but I was proud of how they really picked it up in the second half. Turnovers were again a problem for us. We've got to do a better job of taking care of the basketball."

Alabama started sluggish against the tournament host, as Pepperdine scored the first five points of the contest en route to a 15-5 lead just six minutes into the action. The Tide struggled on the offensive end shooting just 35 percent from the floor in the early going.

The Wave maintained its double-digit margin for much of the opening period mainly on the play of sophomore guard Shandrika Lee. Lee finished with a career-high 25 points in the first half and seemed to hit a shot everytime Bama would trim the Wave lead to single digits. She finished shooting 8 of 11 from the floor including four three-pointers.

Beth Vice dropped in a driving layup with three seconds left in the half to send UA into the break down by just eight, 49-41.

The struggles continued for Alabama to open the second period as the Tide committed two quick turnovers resulting in four more points for Pepperdine. UA settled down and answered with outscoring PU 16-2 over the next three minutes to earn their first lead of the game, 57-55, on Shun Hunter's layup at the 16:26 mark.

Both teams slipped into a scoring drought over the next several minutes as the Tide went scoreless for over five minutes while Pepperdine failed to score for nearly three minutes. Hunter broke the Tide's lapse with a jumper before PU's Tamara McDonald scored six straight points to retake the lead for the Waves, 64-61.

Pepperdine pushed their lead to five but the Tide cut it back to just two several times before Shondra Johnson converted a layup to even the count at 77. UA gained the lead seconds later when LaNisha Cartwell put back in Johnson's missed free throw to give Bama the lead.

Nadja Morgan made a pair of free throws to tie the score at 79 with 53 seconds left and then got a put back layup with two seconds remaining to give Pepperdine the lead. Katie Sipe's shot at the buzzer bounced off the front rim as the Wave held on for the tournament title.

Johnson, who earned All-Tournament honors, led three Bama players in double-figures with 20 points followed by 13 from Beth Vice and Cartwell with 11. Lee finished with 26 points to earn MVP honors and lead the Wave.

The Crimson Tide returns home to Alabama but remains on the road as Bama travels to Birmingham Southern for a 7 p.m. game on Tuesday.


MALIBU, Calif. --- The Crimson Tide remained perfect on the season with a hard-fought 90-89 victory over a very-talented Louisville squad in the opening round of the Pepperdine Thanksgiving Classic.

Alabama (3-0), who held a 15-point lead in the first half, survived 28 turnovers and an eight-point deficit late in the game to remain undefeated. Louisville fell to 1-1 on the young season. "I didn't expect this to be an easy game," said UA coach Rick Moody. "Louisville is a very talented squad. I was disappointed in our turnover total especially since so many of them were unforced errors. I was encouraged to see how we fought back when we fell behind. This was a total team effort."

Alabama opened the game quickly using an 11-point run to take a 13-2 lead just four minutes into the first period. Freshman Katie Sipe sparked the Tide spurt scoring nine straight points.

Louisville crept back into the contest trimming the Bama margin to just three points (20-17) thanks to several UA turnovers. Alabama responded to the Cardinal challenge with another run outscoring UL 13-3 over the next three minutes of action. Donyel Wheeler opened the scoring spree with a three with Beth Vice and Sipe also dropping one in from long range.

Bama's turnovers continued to mount climbing to 13 in the first half as Louisville converted for some easy baskets late to close UA's advantage to only 10, 47-37, at halftime. The Tide maintained its lead during the opening frame on the strength of 51.7 percent shooting from the field including 50 percent (5 of 10) from behind the three-point arc and a perfect 12-12 performance from the free throw line.

The Cardinals came blistering out of the gates to start the second half taking their first lead of the game at 17:01 capitalizing on several Tide miscues and fouls. UL scored the first 15 points before Natasha Gamble ended a four-minute drought for Alabama.

The Crimson Tide got back into a groove retaking the lead 58-56 on a three-point play by LaNisha Cartwell. Cartwell gave Bama a three-point lead just moments later after hauling in Shondra Johnson's missed free throw and laying it in.

Louisville regrouped and opened up an eight-point margin of their own (75-67) but the Tide roared back knotting the score at 77 with 4:26 remaining on a three-point play by Shun Hunter. From there the game was a tightly played affair with neither team every holding a commanding advantage.

The score seesawed back and forth until the final buzzer with Leigh Papisan scoring the winning bucket on a driving lay-up with just 12 ticks left on the clock. The Cardinals got off a desperation shot at the buzzer that failed to draw iron.

Sipe paced four scorers in double-digits finishing with 16 points. Johnson tallied 13 followed by 10 from Shun Hunter and Cartwell. UL's Kara Kessans led all scorers with 26 including 18 in the second half.

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