TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The University of Alabama women’s basketball team (2-6) will continue its home stand with a Sunday matinee against Saint Mary’s College (5-4), tipoff is slated for 1 p.m. from Coleman Coliseum. The Tide is coming off a heartbreaking 62-61 loss to Louisiana Tech while the Gaels fell to No. 23 Vanderbilt 90-69. Mick Gillispie will once again call the action courtside for CTSN.
“We are a young team, but I love how receptive our players are,” head coach Stephany Smith said. “They are really buying in and catching on to what we want to do, most specifically on the defensive end. Anytime you are seeing positive results from the defense and scoring baskets on offense, it gives you an added adrenaline and energy to continue to play hard on the defensive end. I hope this is something that will continue in the day-to-day practices, and if it does, it will obviously carry over into our games.”
Sunday’s contest will mark the first time the Tide have hosted the Gaels. Alabama has been to Moraga three times, but only played SMC twice. UA holds a 2-0 all-time advantage. Last season the Tide participated in the Concord-Hilton Thanksgiving Classic but did not face the host Gaels. The last time the two squads met was in 1999 in the Saint Mary’s Christmas Classic where Alabama earned a tough 61-59 victory. SMC assistant coach Tracy Johnston, formerly Tracy Morris, played in the contest and scored 13 points. The previous game was an 85-47 victory in Moraga in 1983.
Saint Mary’s enters Tuscaloosa with a 5-4 record on the season. The Gaels are coming off two straight losses to ranked opponents. SMC fell to No. 12 ranked Cal 77-61 and then dropped a 90-69 decision to No. 23 ranked Vanderbilt. Junior guard Jontelle Smith paces SMC with 14.3 points per game. The Pinole, Calif. native was a 2006-07 All-WCC First-Team selection. Australian native Louella Tomlinson has made an immediate impact for Saint Mary’s. The newcomer is second in the nation in blocks per game with 4.4 per contest, leading a Gaels squad to a No. 8 ranking in the category nationally with six bpg. Tomlinson is also adding 11.2 points per night. Saint Mary’s lone road victory came against Pacific with a score of 82-68. In four of the five wins, SMC has scored more than 80 points. Head coach Paul Thomas enters his second season for SMC after coming to Moraga from Cal Poly Pomona where he led his squad to back-to-back Division II national titles. He was named the NCAA Division II Coach of the Year in 2002.
With such a young squad for the Tide, career-bests have been a common occurrence. Freshman Daleisha Carn tallied a career-high 20 points in the one point loss against Louisiana Tech. Carn shot 9-for-14 and grabbed five boards in career-high 34 minutes of action. Junior Camilla Blands put together one of her best ball-handling days of her career, handing out a career-best four helpers without a turnover. The Denmark native also grabbed a career-high nine rebounds in 30 minutes of action.
The freshman tandem of Tierney Jenkins and Daleisha Carn has paced the Tide all season long. In six of the eight games played thus far, Jenkins or Carn have led the team in scoring, with Jenkins recording team-highs in three-straight contests. Jenkins has the team-high on the season with 21 points in the win against Washington State. Carn erupted for 18 in the second half to lead UA against Belmont. Carn then busted out for a career-best 20 points against Louisiana Tech. On the year, Carn leads UA with 11.8 points per game while Jenkins closely follows with 11.4 per contest.
Alabama has been all over the glass this season. The Tide pace the SEC in rebounding margin and rank No. 20 in the nation with a +10.3 mark. UA also leads the SEC in rebounding defense, allowing only 31.6 boards per night. Bama ranks fifth in both offensive rebounds (15.29) and defensive rebounds (26.57) per game. Sophomore forward Talisha Chandler ranks third in the conference and No. 22 nationally, pulling down 10.4 rebounds per game. Chandler set a career-high in boards with 18 against Belmont on Nov. 28. That came four days after tying her previous best with 14 boards in the win against WSU. Chandler has recorded double-digits in rebounds five times this season, including four of the last five games.
Alabama has put on a defensive clinic thus far this season, ranking No. 25 nationally in scoring defense and No. 19 in blocked shots per game. In the win against Tennessee Tech, UA held TTU to only five field goals for 12 points in the first half. The Tide also held Washington State to only five field goals in the first half, both games were wins. Alabama ranks third in the SEC in scoring defense, holding opponents to 53.1 points per game. Opponents are shooting 34 percent against the Tide which ranks fourth and 30 percent from downtown which ranks fifth. Bama is tied for second in blocks, turning away 5.57 shots per contest.
Alabama will hit the road for the only time in December as the Tide head back to the Volunteer state to face Tennessee-Chattanooga. Game-time is scheduled for Saturday, December 15 at 1 p.m. ET from the McKenzie Center. UA will then play six-straight home games, with its next contest in Coleman Coliseum slated against Alabama A&M on Dec. 17.