March 5, 2009
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -
The women's basketball team led at the half, but a second-half run by Tennessee helped the Lady Vols to a 68-49 victory on Thursday in the first round of the SEC Tournament. With the loss, the Crimson Tide finishes the season at 13-17 overall at 1-13 in league play, while Tennessee improves to 21-9 on the season and 9-5 in the SEC.
"I thought both teams played hard," said head coach Wendell Hudson. "The difference in the basketball game was points in the paint. They did a great job in the second half of getting offensive boards. In the first half we made some shots. That always gives you a chance in the basketball game. We came out with the same effort in the second, but our shots were not falling."
Freshman Ericka Russell led all scorers in the game with 18 points and sophomore Varisia Raffington added 11. Freshman Carmen McCoy topped the rebounding list for Alabama with seven. Freshman Shekinna Stricklen ended as the Lady Vols' leading point-producer with 16 points.
Alabama had a stellar start to the game outscoring Tennessee 9-2 and holding the Lady Vols scoreless for nearly four and a half minutes. All nine of the Tide's points were scored by Russell. Alabama continued to control the lead until the 5:23 mark when Tennessee freshman Glory Johnson hit a pair of free throws to put the Lady Vols in front 21-20. With under one minute remaining in the half, Johnson scored two giving Tennessee a five-point lead. The Tide went on to score the final six points of the first that included a four-point play from Raffington and a quick jumper with two seconds left by junior Dedrea Magee putting Alabama in front 31-30 at the break.
The Lady Vols got off to a commanding start in the second behind the efforts of a 14-0 run over the opening 5:44. Raffington scored the Tide's first bucket with a three-pointer at 15:03 setting the score at 44-34. Alabama remained within 10 points of Tennessee until Stricklen buried back-to-back three-pointers to put the Lady Vols on top 61-45. Tennessee would take its largest lead of the game with 32 seconds left in the contest putting the Lady Vols up by 19.
The Tide shot 39.3 percent in the first half, including 57.1 percent from three-point range. In the second, Alabama shot just 21.9 percent and 21.4 percent from beyond the arc.
"I think what this team did this year, and what we wanted to accomplish this year, was to play hard," added Hudson. "Now we need to learn how to make plays. Good players make plays. There were times where Tennessee may have not made the play but had a good player step up. That is what we need to learn to do."