Undefeated and Undeterred: Women’s basketball off to a fast start 

The verdict is in. Alabama women’s basketball team has lived up to the preseason hype. 

Ashlee Woods | @ashleemwoods

More stories from Ashlee Woods | @ashleemwoods

The Crimson Tide is currently 5-0 on the season, with its latest win against Mercer scoring 78-61. This is the team’s first undefeated start to the season since 2016. 

So, what’s Alabama doing to perform well on the court? Here are some takeaways from the season so far:

Starting strong, finishing even stronger 

Last season, Alabama struggled to play consistently throughout all four quarters. But that hasn’t been the case in the past 5 games. 

Alabama kept their foot on the gas and never trailed against Mercer on Monday. The team scored 23 points in the first quarter, holding Mercer to only seven. The Crimson Tide also shot for 70% from the field. After the game, Alabama head coach Kristy Curry discussed the team’s desire to improve the starts to each game. 

“We felt like we had to improve on how we started both halves, and our kids did a great job of that today and executed the game plan well,” Curry said. 

The strong first quarter spilled over to the other three, as Alabama held a lead as large as 25 points late in the contest. Although Mercer would outscore the Crimson Tide in the fourth quarter 25-22, the fast and consistent start from Alabama was too much for Mercer to overcome. 

Handling adversity 

Even with an impressive start, there are bound to be some bumps in the road. Oklahoma State put the Tide’s momentum to the test in their Dec. 5 matchup.  

At one point in the third quarter, Alabama was down 17 points. They managed to close the gap to just eight points at the end of the third, but still had a long way to go. Again, Alabama did something they struggled with last season: pulling off comebacks. 

Led by sophomore guard Hannah Barber’s 14 points in the last eight minutes of regulation, the Crimson Tide won the contest, 76-72. This game showed Alabama’s grit, which head coach Kristy Curry praised after the game. 

“We had no quit. Just incredible,” Curry said. “This was incredible to see our kids not quit. Hannah [Barber] gets two early fouls, and we’ve got some adversity in the first half. We turn it over nine times. We just stayed the course. It was an incredible effort and will by this group. I’m so proud of this group.”

The moxie and fight of this Alabama team was something regularly discussed by coaches and players on the team during the preseason, and it’s showing on the court. The Crimson Tide is not a stranger to adversity, but it’s overcoming hurdles by cutting down on key mistakes late in the game. The poise the team has carried in these five games, especially when struggling, should encourage fans. 

Big-time play from big-time players 

A start like this can’t happen without the players on the team playing at a high level. Over the course of these five games, players like forward Ariyah Copeland step up on both sides of the ball.

At this point in the season, Copeland is shooting 74% from the field. She has also notched three doubles-doubles this season. Copeland, alongside forward Jasmine Walker, has generated the offensive firepower for this team by moving inside the defense and playing both sides of the basket. After the Crimson Tide’s Dec. 2 victory over USC Upstate, Copeland spoke to commentators on SEC Network about this area of her game. 

“Yeah, that’s something I really emphasized when we came back from quarantine, just being able to be a threat on either side of the basket. It’s easy to guard someone that can’t go one way, so I don’t wanna be somebody that’s one of those people,” Copeland said. 

The team’s success is not all because of Copeland, though. The work of her teammates has allowed her to penetrate this inside and show her newfound effectiveness on both sides of the basket. 

“I think it’s very critical to get the ball inside, I think we’re successful when we get the ball inside and attack,” Copeland said of her teammates after the UC Upstate game. 

Copeland’s consistency could reap dividends down the line, when the Tide will need aggressive inside play against SEC competition. 

What does the stretch mean for the season ahead? 

It’s early. Alabama hasn’t played any conference games nor have they played a ranked opponent. That’s not the point. 

The first few games of a season are when a team figures out who they are. In Alabama’s case, this team has proven so far to be a far better team than they were last season, playing cleaner and more effective basketball on both sides.

Regardless of who’ve they played, Alabama has shown that they are not a team others can just write off as a win. This team is here and ready to play with grit and gratitude. 

Alabama will look to go 6-0 as they travel to Elma Roane Fieldhouse to face The University of Memphis on Saturday. Tip-off is at 2 p.m. CST.