Feb. 18, 2010
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The Alabama women's basketball team had the nation's No. 5 ranked team on the ropes for much of Thursday night's affair at Coleman Coliseum, but ultimately lost a hard fought 74-67 decision to the Tennessee Lady Volunteers before 3,900 fans.
Freshman guard Celiscia Farmer scored a game-high and career-best 21 points for the Crimson Tide who fall to 10-16 (2-11 SEC). Tennessee improves to 24-2 (12-1 SEC).
"The effort was there tonight," Alabama head coach Wendell Hudson said. "We have talked about playing hard like we do in practice. At this point, you have to give that same effort. I don't believe in moral victories, but our effort kept us in the game tonight and I am really proud of the team."
Alabama trailed the Lady Vols 54-49 at the midway point of the second half and had the home crowd at a fever pitch. However, a 13-2 Tennessee run gave the Lady Vols a 67-51 lead with 6:22 to play, a margin too large for the Crimson Tide to overcome.
Alabama kept it interesting, going on a quick 8-0 run, to pull within single digits at the 3:22 mark, but the Lady Vols stayed the course the rest of the way, never letting the Tide cut into the margin until the final buzzer sounded.
"Our team didn't quit, and that is key against a team like (Tennessee)," Hudson said. "I was real proud of our group hanging in there and continuing to play. They thought they had a chance to win the basketball game. That is important against a team like this."
Turnovers proved to be Alabama's undoing in an otherwise strong effort from top to bottom. The Tide out-rebounded Tennessee 45-33 and outscored the Lady Vols 32-15 in bench points. However Tennessee turned 24 Tide turnovers into 27 points, compared to only 14 points for Alabama off 12 Lady Vols turnovers.
"Our shots may fall or they may not. We can't do anything about that," Hudson said. "But we can always give good effort defensively. I thought we did a great job of that tonight against a team that is very talented. We made them work for every point they got."
Two free throws by junior guard Alyson Butler at the outset of the second half pulled Alabama within four at 37-33, the closest the Tide had been since the 5:35 mark of the first half. Tennessee expounded the margin to nine points over the next 4:33 before a three pointer by sophomore Ericka Russell pulled Alabama within six at the 15:10 mark.
The Lady Vols pushed the margin to as large as 11 before another Russell three cut the deficit to five at the 9:22 mark. From there the Lady Vols went on their deciding run. Thursday saw Coleman Coliseum filled with a sea of pink as women's basketball in conjunction with the gymnastics teams hosted part one of two "Power of Pink" events to raise awareness in the fight against breast cancer.
"We had a great crowd which was very important," Hudson said. "A lot of people had pink on and they were cheering for us. You could just feel the energy from them. I thought that was a key to the way we played."
Farmer scored five of the Tide's first seven points as Alabama jumped out to a 7-6 lead over the Lady Vols through the first 3:07
The Tide held Tennessee to just 4-of-13 (30.8 percent) from the field in the early going, with the Lady Vols garnering eight of their ten points in paint.
After her initial scoring flurry, Farmer settled down as her teammates picked up the slack. Five Alabama players scored at least two points over the final 13:52 of the half with senior guard Dedrea Magee's eight points leading the way.
The lead changed hands seven times over the course of the first 16:26, including four ties. It wasn't until a 7-0 run by the Lady Vols, spanning less than two minutes of the first half, that either team had a lead larger than four points.
Tennessee briefly expounded the margin to 33-23 at the 3:50 mark, until back-to-back buckets by Farmer cut the deficit to six where it would remain until halftime.
Farmer's 13 points led all scorers at the half. Sophomores Alyssia Brewer and Shekinna Stricklen each had 10 points, respectively, for the Lady Vols.
Next up, Alabama travels to Arkansas on Sunday, Feb 21. Tipoff is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. (CST) with the game airing live on Cox Sports Television.