Chess, not checkers: how Alabama handled everything Georgia threw at them

Ashlee Woods | @ashleemwoods, Contributing Columnist

Chess is a game based on tactical strategy. To win a chess match, a player must be able to adjust to whatever their opponent throws at them. One wrong move can spell doom for a player.  

The Alabama women’s basketball team’s SEC opener against Georgia was just that, a chess match. Both teams were forced to employ unique styles of play throughout the game. It quickly became a game of which coaching staff would make enough correct moves to help their squad win.  

The Crimson Tide opened conference play with a 56-53 win over the Lady Bulldogs. Active hands on defense, strong transition offense and clutch buckets in big moments helped Alabama call checkmate on Georgia.  

Coming into this game, the Crimson Tide knew that the Georgia’s zone defense would be tough to crack. Alabama head coach Kristy Curry said it would take more effort from the team to find the soft spots.  

“The zone is tough,” Curry said. “They don’t go away from it. They stick with it. Starting our transition game will be critical to our success.”  

Like Curry expected, Georgia’s zone defense was stifling. Outside an opening bucket from guard Brittany Davis, the Lady Bulldogs held the Crimson Tide scoreless for over four minutes. It became clear early on that Georgia head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson came prepared to outsmart Curry.  

Curry’s first move was a complete lineup change. That lineup included guard JaMya Mingo-Young, who didn’t let the size matchup get to her. Strong defense from Mingo-Young helped Alabama snag a 16-6 lead heading into the second quarter.  

Alabama upped the ante in transition during the second quarter, switching to zone defense to create some ball pressure. That led to six steals in the second frame by the Crimson Tide and more fastbreak opportunities.  

Georgia didn’t give up, despite being down 13 points at halftime. In fact, the Lady Bulldogs used the pick and roll to create scoring chances inside the paint. Eighteen of Georgia’s 30 points in the paint came in the second half.  

But whenever the Lady Bulldogs closed the gap on the Crimson Tide, Alabama answered to keep Georgia at bay. In the first half, it was guard Hannah Barber with transition three pointers. In the third quarter, it was guard Brittany Davis from inside and beyond the arc.  

But when Georgia finally got within one point of the Crimson Tide’s lead late in the fourth, it was center Jada Rice who stepped up to the line and knocked down two crucial free throws. That gave Alabama a three point cushion that wouldn’t be relinquished.  

Alabama knew there would be pivotal moments against Georgia where the team needed to step up and execute. Conference play brings a new set of challenges that teams need to respond to. The Crimson Tide’s response is due to the work done in practice.  

“There’s going to be moments in the game where we’re called on to step up and knock them [3-pointers] down,” Barber said. “I think everybody on our team has done that whenever that time has come this season. Having that mentality of being shot ready on the catch is something we’ve really tried to work on.”  

A win like this is an early sign of the maturity of this team. This matchup has been a tactical challenge for the Crimson Tide. Georgia threw about everything — zone defense, man defense, pick and roll, halfcourt pressure — that Alabama could handle. The Crimson Tide adjusted to every tactic and never slipped up.  

Questions or comments? Email Blake Byler (Sports Editor) at [email protected]