Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Survive and advance: Women’s basketball looks to continue NIT run

Jacob Arthur

Alabama’s women’s basketball team’s season is extremely similar to last year’s. The team lost its last two regular season games, and lost to Kentucky in the SEC tournament. It made the women’s NIT tournament and seemed to be picking up its game, until it met Georgia Tech in the quarterfinals. 

Now, the Crimson Tide will have a chance for redemption when it hosts the Yellow Jackets in the third round of the NIT on Thursday night.

“We don’t really seek revenge, but you always have that chip on your shoulder when you’re playing a team that beat you last year,” senior forward NeNe Bolton said. “You always remember those games, but it’s just another game and we’re approaching it like we would any other game.”

All season, coach Kristy Curry has made it abundantly clear that the goal was to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Despite falling short, she remained positive and said playing in the NIT is a necessary step in the process to becoming perennial NCAA Tournament contenders.

She added that 12 extra practices have the team in good shape, and the additional experiences the players have while preparing for postseason games is invaluable for next season and beyond.

“You get to know your teammates better, and you get to flow better,” sophomore guard Jordan Lewis said. “It’s just an opportunity for us to keep growing and building on what we can do next year.”

Curry said handling the disappointment of not qualifying for the Big Dance better equips the players for their futures beyond basketball.

“I think that was the biggest challenge with this team, to handle the disappointment,” Curry said. “That’s life. You’re going to have things not go your way every day. How are you going to handle that? It’s about your reaction, and I love the way this team is trying to react to the opportunity we have now.”

That response from the players has given the team more production from its bench. Over the final five games before the NIT, bench players scored just 17 percent of the team’s points. But in two NIT wins over Southern and UCF, 29 percent came from the non-starters.

That effect is even more pronounced for rebounds. Over the same five-game stretch, bench players accounted for 19 percent of the boards, but in the two NIT games, that has more than doubled to 39 percent.

“The future’s incredibly bright,” Curry said. “With what we have coming and the foundation these guys have laid, it’s just a really great culture right now in all areas. There’s no question that our senior class is going to do everything they can to not let their next game be their last game, until they have no choice. And [the younger players] are playing their guts out for them right now, and they don’t want it to be their last game.”

With some seniors having played in over 100 games for the Crimson Tide, the prospect of it all ending as early as Thursday is daunting. Until then, though, they’re just striving to extend their careers a day at a time.

“I try to block it out, but reality sets in sometimes,” Bolton said. “It definitely makes me bring more energy, just to have that mindset and have that personality come out on the court. I don’t want to come out and be sad because I know those days are coming to an end. I just try to make every day not be the last practice that we have, or not be our last game.”

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