Friday, November 25, 2005
ST. THOMAS, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – The weather outside was warm and sunny, but the Crimson Tide offense was ice cold inside the Sports and Fitness Center at the University of the Virgin Islands in the opening round of the Paradise Jam.
Alabama (1-2) was unable to mount any type of offensive attack in the second half, allowing Virginia (3-0) to run away with a 69-48 win this afternoon. Virginia, the second consecutive NCAA Tournament from last season on the Tide schedule, utilized an athletic guard court that broke down the Tide defense on one end and harried Alabama’s offensive attack with a pesky full-court press on the defensive end.
“We really didn’t do anything very well today,” head coach Stephany Smith said. “I thought we were ready to play and very well prepared, but we got beat in all parts of the game. We just couldn’t get anything going today.”
The Tide was down in the game almost from the start, managing to tie the contest at two after a Dee Merriweather layup after 2:30 of play. It was the last time Alabama would manage even a tie for the rest of the afternoon, as the Cavaliers led throughout the remainder of the game.
After UVA had dominated the first 17 minutes of the game, the Tide seemed on the verge of breaking out of its offensive doldrums with a 9-3 run to end the half. A jump shot by Kate Mastin at the buzzer pulled the Tide to within eight at the halftime break.
Alabama started out the second stanza on a positive note, as Lauren Hill converted a fast-break bucket to pull the Tide to within six. It was the last bright spot for Alabama offensively, however, as the Cavs dominated the remainder of the game on both ends of the floor.
The Tide’s offense disappeared throughout the next eight minutes, as Alabama went eight-plus minutes without a field goal. Only a Mastin free throw saved the Tide from being held scoreless, and a Chanel Johnson tip-in at the 10:46 mark ended the drought.
Meanwhile, the Virginia offensive attack was humming behind its trio of athletic guards. Lyndra Littles, Takisha Granberry and Brenna McGuire each scored in double figures in the game, led by 13 from Littles. McGuire, the Cavs best deep threat, drained 3-of-5 from downtown, while Littles added eight boards, a game high.
The penetrating guards were often able to find open post players, helping Virginia to shoot 48 percent from the field for the game behind a 50 percent effort in the second half. An Alabama opponent made more than 40 percent from behind the arc for the second straight game, as the Cavs drained 42.9 percent on the afternoon.
The Virginia backcourt was also instrumental on the defensive end, as the Cavalier full-court press forced the Tide into 21 turnovers, the second-straight game with 20 or more turnovers for Alabama. To add to the offensive difficulties, Alabama often played with an extremely short shot clock, as UVA’s guards forced the Tide to waste precious shot-clock seconds in its own backcourt.
“Virginia has not pressed all that much this season,” Smith said. “They had done it periodically in their first two games just to see if it would cause the other team problems. Obviously, it caused us problems and they stuck with it.”
The offensive star of the contest, for the third time in as many games this season, was Hill. The New Orleans native continues to demonstrate a deadly outside shooting stroke, as she knocked down 7-of-11 from the field, several from the 15-17 foot range.
Marverly Nettles struggled offensively, but played well on the defensive end, grabbing six boards, a season-high for the Birmingham native. Harriet Barnes added seven points and three rebounds and Mastin chipped in with six points.
The Tide will return to action in the consolation game of the Paradise Jam. Alabama will face the loser of the Minnesota-Nevada contest at noon central time on Saturday, Nov. 26.