No. 10 Alabama women’s basketball stunned by No. 7 Baylor

Ashlee Woods | @ashleemwoods, Contributing Writer

On Feb. 24, just two days before a Senior Day showdown against Ole Miss, Alabama women’s basketball seniors Jada Rice, Hannah Barber, Brittany Davis and Megan Abrams were asked what it would mean to them to end their careers at Alabama as  champions.  

“It was [about] the mindset of leaving it [the program] better than we found it,” Abrams said. “We can still do all the things that we set out to do.”  

For the 2023 senior class, ending their time in Tuscaloosa as winners wasn’t meant to be. The Crimson Tide dropped its fifth straight game to the No. 7 seed Baylor University Bears in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Alabama, despite having one of its best seasons in recent memory, ends its 2022-2023 campaign with questions about what could have been.  

On Feb. 16, Alabama celebrated in jubilee as it earned its 20th win of the season after defeating Vanderbilt. It was the first time since the 1997 season that Alabama had 20 regular-season wins. Everything the team could have wanted — the No. 4 seed in the SEC tournament and a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament — was in its lap.  

All the team had to do was close the door.  

It started with a loss to Mississippi State, then a heartbreaker to Florida, then another heartbreaker on Senior Day to Ole Miss. A season filled with so many inspiring moments suddenly became marred by glaring mistakes in the spotlight.  

Still, Alabama had a chance to right the ship in Greenville, South Carolina. The Crimson Tide had a bye and an opportunity to make a push in the SEC tournament.  

But the Kentucky Wildcats pushed back and pushed Alabama’s hope aside.  

Now, all eyes turned to Storrs, Connecticut, home to some of college women’s basketball’s biggest moments and stars. Alabama had one more chance to close the door on any doubt about this team’s season.  

In the first quarter, Alabama shocked fans by going up 12-0 against the Bears. Davis began to shine at the big dance, scoring 10 of Alabama’s first 12 points. The defense was churning too. The Crimson Tide broke away from its patented 2-3 zone defense and decided to go man to apply ball pressure.  

The Bears looked disheveled, and Alabama looked like the team that won 20 times.  

At the end of the first frame, the Crimson Tide led 22-4. Davis had already reached double figures with 15 points. Alabama shot 50% from downtown and looked the most confident it had looked since that 88-70 win over Vanderbilt.  

Then, Baylor began to chip away at the lead.  

It started with Baylor guard Ja’Mee Asberry knocking down four 3-pointers. The Bears also began to get some stops on the defensive end. Baylor turned four Crimson Tide turnovers in the second quarter to eight points.  

Alabama’s momentum in Storrs — much like the season after Feb. 16 — began to shift to Baylor.  

Undeterred, Alabama guard Sarah Ashlee Barker finished a tough layup to give Alabama a double-digit lead into the locker room. With two more quarters left, both teams needed to step up to take the win.  

“We just had to do what we were taught to do,” Baylor head coach Nicki Collen said. “There were a lot of challenges being thrown out.” 

One of the challenges Collen threw out to her team was a challenge Alabama was all too familiar with: shutting down the perimeter. The Crimson Tide has faced some of the best 3-point defenses in the NCAA throughout the season and has had success.  

But, Baylor forced Alabama to dribble. Catching and shooting the ball is the Crimson Tide’s specialty. The Bears were there on the catch, forcing Alabama to make errant decisions on offense. The turnovers began to pile up, with six in the third quarter. Alabama began to miss some shots.  

The third quarter mirrored what Alabama fans saw throughout the end of season: small mistakes leading to huge consequences.  

With just over five minutes left in the third, guard Sarah Andrews gave Baylor its first lead with a three pointer.  

Over the next five minutes, Alabama kept fighting. The third quarter ended and the Crimson Tide was back on top, 59-54. However, there was hardly a sense of relief in the Alabama huddle.  

The fourth quarter needed to be a complete and nearly flawless effort. Any mistake could be detrimental.  

Alabama started off strong, as Davis knocked a 3-pointer to extend Alabama’s lead to eight points. Baylor, however, kept responding, and soon enough, the Bears took a 71-68 lead with three minutes left.  

As those three minutes ticked off the clock, the mistakes became too much to overcome, and Baylor erased an 18-point deficit to seal the 78-74 win.  

Davis, despite tying her career high with 33 points, did not fulfill her dream of becoming a champion with her teammates. But, what the group of four seniors did for this Alabama program may mean so much more than a trophy.  

“You have a group of kids that have poured their heart and soul into the program [and made] three straight postseasons,” head coach Kristy Curry said. “For a group of kids that came to Alabama and turned the program around and put it on a trajectory that’s really special, the legacy that they will leave is they left it a whole lot better than they found it.” 

Alabama left a lot on the table this season, but the team also accomplished a lot more than most people expected. Now, the team will welcome a new batch of players to Coleman Coliseum as the program continues to grow.  

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