Women's Basketball Opens SEC Play with No. 6/6 Kentucky

Jan. 1, 2014

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The women’s basketball team hosts No. 6/6 Kentucky in its Southeastern Conference opener on Thursday, Jan. 2, at 2 p.m. CT in Foster Auditorium. The Crimson Tide enters the game with a 7-6 non-conference record, while the Wildcats stand at 12-1 overall.

Thursday’s game can be heard on the Crimson Tide Sports Network on Tide 99.1 FM with Mick Gillispie calling the action. Fans can also follow online via live video feed or live scoring on RollTide.com or on Twitter @AlabamaWBB.

The Crimson Tide and Wildcats will be meeting for the 40th time in the series on Thursday. Kentucky is one of three teams Alabama will play twice this season, with Texas A&M and Auburn being the other two. The Wildcats lead 23-16 overall and have won eight of the last nine meetings. The Tide’s lone win during that stretch came on Feb. 16, 2012, when Alabama stunned the seventh-ranked Wildcats, 77-75, thanks to a 70.0 percent (21-30) shooting effort in the first half.

Alabama closed out its non-conference schedule last week with a trip to the Cavalier Classic, hosted by the University of Virginia. The Crimson Tide went 1-1 at the tournament, dropping a 79-59 decision to Princeton in game one before bouncing back with an 82-60 victory against Coppin State in the consolation game. Freshman Ashley Williams had a game-high 21 points in the loss to the Tigers, in addition to a team-best six rebounds. In the win over the Eagles, eight of Alabama’s 11 active players scored in the game, led by senior Shafontaye Myers and junior Daisha Simmons, who had 16 points apiece. Williams also added 15 points and 10 rebounds for her second double-double of the season. Myers leads the team in scoring for the year with an average of 14.7 points per game, while Simmons adds 14.1 points per game in addition to a team-best 6.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists.

Kentucky returned home from a short holiday break to defeat Grambling State in commanding fashion, 109-46, on Sunday. The Wildcats completed non-conference play at 12-1, just the seventh one-loss non-conference season in 40 years of varsity play. Six players netted double figures, led by junior Bria Goss who dropped in a career-high 23 points to go along with a season-high eight rebounds. For the season, Kentucky is led in scoring by senior DeNesha Stallworth, who has been sidelined the last four games after having arthroscopic knee surgery, with 14.2 points per game. She is followed by junior Jennifer O’Neill with 12.6 points per game. Senior Samarie Walker leads the team on the boards with 9.3 rebounds per game. As a team, the Wildcats are averaging 94.5 points per game, scoring 100-plus points five times this season.

Kristy Curry is in her first season as head coach on the Alabama sidelines after spending seven seasons in the same position at Texas Tech (2006-13). Prior to her stint in Lubbock, she spent seven years as head coach of the Purdue Boilermakers (1999-2006). Curry’s teams have made nine NCAA Tournament appearances, including a trip to the championship game in 2001, in addition to winning two Big Ten regular season titles and compiling nine 20-win seasons. She holds an overall coaching record of 316-155.

The Wildcats are led by seventh-year head coach Matthew Mitchell, who has taken Kentucky to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments. His 2012-13 squad finished the season No. 7 in the nation, which was the highest final rank in Kentucky annals. The winningest coach in program history, Mitchell holds a 156-63 record as coach of the Wildcats and a 186-92 mark overall in nine seasons.

Alabama is 8-23 in Southeastern Conference openers all-time. The Crimson Tide’s last win in its league debut came during the 2004-05 season, ironically against Kentucky. Alabama came away with a 69-39 victory on Jan. 9, 2005, in Tuscaloosa.

Freshman Ashley Williams was named to the Cavalier Classic All-Tournament Team after averaging 18.0 points and 8.0 rebounds in the two games. She had a game-high 21 points against Princeton, one point shy of her career best and recorded her second double-double in the last three games with 15 points and a game-high 10 rebounds in the win over Coppin State. Williams played a season-high 35 minutes against the Tigers and another 34 versus the Eagles.

In addition to games, practice and conditioning, the Tide has been extremely active in the Tuscaloosa community this season, participating in a variety of ways. Some of the groups and events the team has gotten involved in include building houses with Habitat for Humanity, playing games and serving dessert to the residents of Capstone Village Retirement Community, assisting with the MDA Lock-Up event, lunch and making gingerbread houses with the students of the CrossingPoints transition program (students ages 18-21 with disabilities), donated and distributed gifts as part of Project Angel Tree and played games and helped with trick-or-treating at the athletic department’s annual Halloween Extravaganza. In addition, the team went out in groups every week leading up to the start of the season to city and county 5th grade classes as part of its 5th grade Fastbreak program, that culminated with a trip for all schools involved to the game on Dec. 17.

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