Thursday, January 08, 2004
» Box Score
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – A short-handed University of Alabama women’s basketball team battled the entire game but came up just short in overtime, dropping a 65-61 decision to Middle Tennessee State on Thursday night.
The loss drops the Tide to 8-5 on the season and sends them into Southeastern Conference play following back-to-back losses. MTSU improves to 10-3 on the year.
Alabama starting senior point guard Manisha Redus was not with the team on Thursday night as she was with her family at the funeral of her grandmother, who passed away early in the week. Redus has been the starter for Bama the past two seasons and in her absence, freshman Kate Mastin earned her first career start. Mastin finished with eight points and four assists but also committed 13 turnovers.
“This is just a tough loss for us,” said UA head coach Rick Moody. “I thought we played solid defense, but on the road you have to take care of the basketball. I feel sorry for Kate because she got thrust into a difficult spot and just had a couple rough spots. She will learn from this and I know she is going to be a good player. Our biggest concern right now is to get move past this loss and get refocused for the start of the SEC season.”
The Crimson Tide defense was the story early in the opening half as Bama opened up a 19-7 advantage thanks to a stifling man-to-man guarding that limited MTSU to just one field goal in the first 11:45 of play.
The Blue Raiders finally got things going an were able to trim the UA lead to just four, 21-17, with 6:03 left but Alabama answered with five quick points to push back in front by near double digits. Both teams went cold over the closing three minutes with each squad scoring one basket. Bama took a 29-22 lead into the lockerroom at halftime.
Alabama held an advantage for much of the second half, but a determined MTSU team kept fighting and clawing their way back into the game. Twice the Blue Raiders closed the UA margin to one but both times Alabama pushed back in front. Middle Tennessee finally earned their first lead, 52-51, with 1:45 left in regulation.
The Tide’s Katie Sipe dropped in a pair of free throws to put Bama back in front, but on the next possession MTSU tied the game with a free throw of their own. UA’s Dee Merriweather missed three free throw attempts in the final minute and the Blue Raiders failed on two field goal tries in the final 10 seconds, sending the game into overtime.
The two squads traded the lead early in the extra period, but Middle Tennessee finally capitalized on their overwhelming edge at the free throw line to open up a four-point lead they would not relinquish.
For the game, Alabama connected on seven more baskets than MTSU and out-rebounded them 50-42. However, the difference was the Tide’s 26 turnovers and the Blue Raiders 24-6 edge in points from the charity stripe. Middle finished 24 of 38 from the line while Bama was just 6 of 12. A trio of UA players fouled out of the game marking the first time all season an Alabama player had fouled out.
Lauren Hill led the Tide with a career high 12 points followed by Monique Bivins with 11 and Katie Sipe with 10. Merriweather paced the Bama glass work, pulling down 12 in the game. UA held MTSU’s leading scorer Patrice Holmes to just 10 points on 3-for-20 shooting in the game, but saw Krystle Horton (20) and Tia Stovall (17) pick up her slack.
Alabama returns home for its next two contests including their Southeastern Conference opener on Sunday at 2 p.m. against South Carolina.