It took 42 tries for Alabama women’s basketball to finally end Tennessee’s win-streak over the Crimson Tide, but in 2016 it finally happened. Thursday night at Coleman Coliseum, a new streak began.
Two games is a long way away from 42 consecutive — it’s a 32-year difference — but there was the smell of an upset all the way through Alabama’s 65-57 victory over Tennessee, becoming just the fourth win over the Lady Vols in program history.
“I loved our focus and our energy tonight,” Alabama coach Kristy Curry said. “When we do that consistently for four quarters, we give ourselves a chance.”
Alabama beat Tennessee at its own game. The Lady Vols entered Thursday ranked No. 2 in the Southeastern Conference in rebounding, but that didn’t show. The Crimson Tide pieced together a 29-16 advantage on the glass after 20 minutes, and 53-38 advantage over the course of the entire game. Fourteen second-chance on 22 offensive rebounds proved to be enough to cover Alabama’s 35 percent field goal percentage.
“The coaches kept telling us to go to the (glass), and that’s what I did,” Alabama guard Coco Knight said. “As a team we had 22, and I think that’s the highest we’ve had in a while.”
It all fell into place for UA. The Crimson Tide even excelled in its biggest weakness since conference play began, ball security. Ten turnovers is Alabama’s fewest amount since a Jan. 8 win against Missouri, and no Alabama player turned the ball over more than twice.
“All week we’ve been working on (turnovers),” Alabama guard Hannah Cook said. “Ball security and less than 13 turnovers, I know we’ve been a little bumpy on that, but we did very well today. We only had four at half. I’m just really proud of this team.”
For Tennessee, a rough start turned into a nightmare when its leading scorer and junior leader, Diamond DeShields, went down with an injury midway through the first quarter. DeShields, who is averaging 18 points per game this season, was taken off on a stretcher after a collision while diving for a loose ball. She was taken to the hospital for further evaluation.
Knight led Alabama, scoring a career-high 18 points, while Cook was right behind, chipping in 16.
UA’s second benchmark victory over Tennessee was needed. The win ends a five-game losing skid, and after Vanderbilt’s loss to South Carolina, Alabama now cannot finish last in the conference. Curry’s last two teams are now the only in Crimson Tide history to defeat Tennessee in back-to-back seasons. Without a senior on the roster, the Crimson Tide will return the same core to go for a third-straight win over the SEC’s winningest program.
“We just have so much respect their program, and every game in this league is just as important,” Curry said. “I told them, 'We'll enjoy it until midnight and then the next game is all that matters.'"