Women’s basketball ends season in heartbreaking WNIT quarterfinal

Ashlee Woods | @ashleemwoods, Sports Editor

The South Dakota State Jackrabbits ended Alabama’s dream run in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament quarterfinals Sunday night. 

After defeating Troy, Tulane and Houston in the opening three rounds of the WNIT, the Crimson Tide fell 78-73 to the Jackrabbits. Alabama finished the season winning eight of its last 11 games. 

Round #1: Troy University

Teams can’t expect easy matchups in postseason play, and Alabama’s first round opponent was stout competition. Alabama went head to head with the 2022 Sun Belt Conference champions, the Troy Trojans, on March 17. 

With stellar offensive play from four starters, the Crimson Tide squeaked by the Trojans 82-79. The win gave Alabama a 5-5 record on the road this season and a 9-2 record at Troy all time. 

It was another offensive masterclass from the Crimson Tide guards. Senior Megan Abrams led Alabama in scoring with 24 points and made all eight of her free throw attempts. Guards JaMya Mingo-Young and Brittany Davis weren’t far behind, scoring 17 and 16 points, respectively. 

Not to be outdone, center Jada Rice was a force in the paint for the Crimson Tide. Rice scored 15 points and snagged 15 rebounds against the Trojans. The performance was just her second double-double of the season. 

The stat sheets show a dominant, all-around performance from the Crimson Tide, but the game wasn’t as clear cut. Alabama shot as low as 14% in the first quarter and went 0-for-5 in layup attempts. 

The crowd in Trojan Arena was rocking, and the energetic crowd propelled Troy to a 10-point lead before the Crimson Tide hushed the crowd with a 7-0 run midway through the first quarter. 

Alabama still trailed at the end of the first quarter. Down 22-19, the Crimson Tide made their push in the second quarter. Aided by an 8-0 scoring run, Alabama took a 42-32 lead into the locker room. 

The second half was a back and forth battle, and Troy slowly cut down the deficit. At the end of the third quarter, Alabama led 59-52. Midway through the fourth, Alabama was up 68-60. 

The Trojans took the offensive late in the fourth. Troy went on a 13-2 scoring run to make it just a 1-point game with 15 seconds left. Up 80-79, Abrams draws a foul. She heads to the line and makes both attempts. 

“Just really proud of our team for finding a way to win down the stretch,” Alabama head coach Kristy Curry said. “I think our league has prepared us for this type of environment.” 

With the win sealed, Alabama set a revenge matchup with the Tulane Green Wave. 

Round #2: Tulane University 

In the second regular-season game, the Tulane Green Wave handed Alabama its first loss of the season. Mingo-Young, the team and Crimson Tide fans thought she made a three-pointer at the buzzer to seal the win, but the three was wiped from the board and Tulane escaped Coleman Coliseum with a win. 

On March 21, Alabama got a taste of revenge, defeating Tulane 81-77 in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

Abrams, with a 19-point performance, became the newest member of the 1,000 point club. 

The other guards also shined in the Big Easy. Davis led the team in scoring and rebounding with 22 points and 10 rebounds. This was Davis’ seventh double-double of the season. Mingo-Young scored 21 points, sinking a pair of three-pointers. 

Senior Hannah Barber tacked on another 12 points for the Crimson Tide. All of her points came from downtown. She also snagged five rebounds. 

Alabama jumped out to a 5-0 lead to start the game. Not wanting to lose control of the game, Tulane responded with an 8-0 run, but it wasn’t enough. Alabama maintained a 20-16 lead at the end of the first.

The second quarter was a tug-of-war battle, and neither team could take control. Alabama went on a 7-0 run toward the end of the period thanks to a three-pointer by Barber and two layups by Mingo-Young and Davis.  

Alabama’s lead stretched to 38-32 before they tacked on another bucket before the half. Alabama headed to the locker room with a 40-36 lead. 

Tulane opened the second half on a 7-0 run to take a 43-40 lead. Alabama showed no signs of quitting, and Barber tied the game with a three-pointer. The fire in Tulane wasn’t extinguished, however. Tulane went on an 8-0 run to help themselves to a 58-51 lead, which forced Curry to take a timeout. 

Out of the timeout, a pair of free throws from Abrams started an 8-0 run, with all points coming from the charity stripe. Alabama led 49-48 at the end of the third quarter.

The fourth quarter came down to fouls and free throws. The execution at the line from the Crimson Tide was too much for the Green Wave to overcome. 

“We were able to get to the free-throw line and convert,” Curry said. “Just a lot of gritty plays in a really tough environment.” 

The win brought fans back into Coleman Coliseum for the final time this season, as Alabama hosted the Houston Cougars. 

Round of 16: University of Houston 

In front of an energetic home crowd, the Crimson Tide used a massive second half to defeat the Cougars 79-64. The Crimson Tide won 20 games for the first time since the 2017-2018 season. 

“It definitely felt good,” Abrams said. “We had a big crowd tonight, so that definitely gave us some energy, sparked us a little bit. It was definitely fun to play in Coleman — obviously our favorite place to play.” 

Davis and Abrams led the team in scoring with 18 points each. Davis scored 10 of her 18 points in the first 10 minutes of action. Mingo-Young had double-digit points for the third straight game with 17, and she went 9-for-12 from the charity stripe. 

The first quarter showed just how deadly this team can be when clicking offensively. Houston scored first with a three-pointer, but Alabama responded with an 11-0 run with the help of four players. Before Houston could blink, the first frame was over, and they trailed the Crimson Tide 24-12.

Houston weathered the early storm and started throwing haymakers of their own. The Cougars outscored Alabama, 16-4, in the first five minutes and two seconds. This start to the period included a 13-1 run ahead of the media timeout to help Houston tie the game at 28. 

Both teams went on small runs in a back-and-forth affair until halftime. Thanks to an assist by Mingo-Young, Abrams scored a three-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game at 40.

Alabama went on a 5-0 run to begin the second half thanks to a handful of free throws. The first nine points in the third quarter all came from the line. 

Abrams scored the first field goal of the second half with four minutes and 58 seconds left in the third. Alabama outscored the Cougars 22-6 in the third quarter and led 62-46 going into the final 10 minutes of action.

Houston cut Alabama’s lead to just nine points in the middle of the fourth quarter, but the momentum shifted back to the Crimson Tide with a free throw by Mingo-Young and a three-pointer by Davis.

The buzzer sounded and the team danced along with the crowd to “Rammer Jammer.” The Crimson Tide had won six of their last seven games up to this point. Alabama was playing its best basketball yet. 

Next up was a showdown with the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. 

Quarterfinals: South Dakota State University 

A massive 34-point third quarter wasn’t enough to catch the Jackrabbits. In front of a loud and energetic crowd of over 6,000 fans, the Crimson Tide fell to SDSU 78-73 in the quarterfinal round of the WNIT. 

Alabama finishes the season with an overall record of 20-13. 

Once again, four starters scored double-digit points. Davis led all scorers with 28 points and set a school record for most three-pointers made in a season with 93. 

Abrams was second in scoring, with exactly half of Davis’ total. Rice and Mingo-Young rounded out the double-digit scoring with 12 and 10, respectively, 

The third-ranked shooting team showed why they’ve been so efficient offensively this season. The Jackrabbits made their first 3 three point attempts. SDSU jumped out to a 9-4 with that opening run. 

Alabama couldn’t find their rhythm defensively and found themselves down 26-11 at the end of the first quarter. The Jackrabbits shot 60.0% in that period, compared to the Crimson Tide’s 27.8%.

In the second quarter, the Alabama coaching staff made a defensive adjustment. The team mixed in 2-3 zone defense with the main defense they were already playing in. 

“We were having trouble guarding their motion, and I think the zone really got us back in the game,” Curry said. 

The switch worked, and Alabama disrupted the Jackrabbits’ rhythm. The Crimson Tide outscored SDSU 19-18 in the second frame, which included a 7-0 run around the three-minute mark to get within two points of SDSU. 

However, the Jackrabbits led Alabama, 44-30, at halftime, thanks to a 12-0 run by the Jackrabbits.

With two starters — Mingo-Young and Davis — in foul trouble and all the momentum on the Jackrabbits side, the Crimson Tide needed a massive second half effort for a chance at a first WNIT semifinal appearance in school history. 

Alabama began the third on a 12-2 run in the first two minutes of action, which included a couple of three-pointers by Barber and Davis. The Crimson Tide scored 34 points in the third quarter, shooting 76.5% from the floor. 

Alabama now had its first lead of the game, 64-56, at the end of the period. Davis had 16 points in that period alone, including 3-of-4 from long range.

Rice carried the Crimson Tide’s momentum into the fourth quarter with a quick layup, and Alabama led 66-55. The Jackrabbits responded with a 9-0 run and took control for the rest of the fourth quarter. 

Alabama’s eight point lead evaporated as SDSU used a 22-9 fourth quarter to book their ticket to the semifinal round of the WNIT. 

“I honestly couldn’t be prouder of our group of kids and how they continued to get better every day,” Curry said. 

The season didn’t end how Alabama wanted it to, but the Crimson Tide has a chance to build on this run next year. With Davis and Abrams already confirming that they will return next year and the additions of Loyal McQueen and Karly Weathers, this team is primed for more success come November. 

“I’ve just loved the progress this group here has made,” Curry said.