TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The University of Alabama women’s basketball team (3-6) heads back to the state of Tennessee to face the UT-Chattanooga Lady Mocs (5-3) on Saturday, Dec. 15 at 1:00 p.m. (ET) from The McKenzie Arena. Alabama is coming off a 66-56 victory over Saint Mary’s while Chattanooga fell in its last outing 67-63 to Alabama A&M. The game against UTC will be televised on Chattanooga Fox-61. Mick Gillispie will once again call the action on CTSN.
Saturday’s meeting marks the continuation of a series that dates back to 1981. Saturday’s game will be the ninth meeting between the two teams, with the Tide holding a slight 5-3 edge in the series. UA handled UTC at home last season by the score of 68-56 on Nov. 29. The last matchup in Chattanooga came on March 16, 2000, when Alabama travelled to UTC for a WNIT First Round game. The Lady Mocs beat the Tide, 70-68, in that game. The first game was also a Lady Moc victory, an 85-79 win over UA in Chattanooga. The teams have faced each other just three times in Tuscaloosa, with UA winning twice in Coleman Coliseum. Alabama has won four of the last five in the series. Head coach Stephany Smith is 1-0 against Chattanooga.
Chattanooga has gotten off to a 5-3 start this season led in both scoring and rebounding by Alex Anderson. The senior leads the Southern Conference with 16.0 points per game, scoring 20 or more points four times this year. Anderson has posted a pair of double-doubles and is second in the league with 8.6 boards per game. Laura Hall’s ability to find an open teammate is showing itself this season as the senior is ranked 28th in the nation with 5.3 assists per game. She also leads the league with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.33, 19th best in the country. Hall adds 6.6 points per game from the point and has nine 3-pointers on the year. UTC has played in the postseason the last seven years under head coach Wes Moore, including five trips to the big dance over that span. Last season the Lady Mocs finished 25-8 and return all five starters. In 2004, UTC ran off a 27-game winning streak, defeating Rutgers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
On the UT-Chattanooga bench a familiar face resides on the Lady Mocs coaching staff. Former Tide director of basketball operations Ashley McElhiney is in her first season as an assistant coach. McElhiney was hired in July on coach Wes Moore’s staff after handling the travel duties and serving as a liaison to the marketing and promotions departments at Alabama. McElhiney, a four-year letterwinning performer at Vanderbilt University (1999-2003) served a one-year stint as the head coach of the Nashville Rhythm of the American Basketball Association. She made history in that position by serving as the first female head coach of a men’s professional basketball team. McElhiney guided the Rhythm to a 21-10 record and a berth in the ABA playoffs in their inaugural season. As a player at Vanderbilt, McElhiney helped guide the Commodores to a 94-36 record during her career, including four appearances in the NCAA Tournament and two trips to a Regional final game. She also helped lead Vanderbilt to a pair of SEC Tournament championship games, with an SEC title to her credit in 2002.
It took a couple games and some near misses but the Alabama women’s basketball team earned its first home victory on the season. After a heartbreaking 62-61 loss to Louisiana Tech, the Tide ran past Saint Mary’s its next time out, 66-56 Sunday afternoon. Alabama was away from Coleman Coliseum for four straight games, earning two victories over that span.
After earning its first victory on the season against Washington State the Tide have begun to heat up and notch wins more frequently. Alabama has won three of its past five games, including two of its last three. UA defeated Tennessee Tech in its last road contest 53-47 and then after a one-point near miss against La. Tech, Alabama defeated Saint Mary’s at home 66-56. The Tide looks for its second straight victory on the season and in the state of Tennessee when it faces Chattanooga Saturday.
Alabama has had two players record three double-doubles this season. Sophomore Talisha Chandler tallied the first of the season in an 11-point, 14-rebound performance against Washington State on Nov. 24. Freshman Tierney Jenkins has recorded a double-double in two of the past three contests. The newcomer recorded her first against Tennessee Tech on Nov. 30 with an 11-point, 13-rebound game and then followed that with an even 10-point, 10-board day against Saint Mary’s. In each game an Alabama player has recorded a double-double, the Tide have earned the victory.
Alabama has been all over the glass this season. The Tide rank second in the SEC in rebounding margin and rank No. 17 in the nation with a +10.1 mark. UA is also second in the SEC in rebounding defense, allowing only 34.0 boards per night. Bama ranks fourth in offensive rebounds (16.11) and third in defensive rebounds (28.00) per game. Sophomore forward Talisha Chandler ranks third in the conference and No. 25 nationally, pulling down 10.0 rebounds per game. Chandler set a career-high in boards with 18 against Belmont on Nov. 28. The 18 rebounds is a single game high for the SEC this season. 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 six games.
Alabama has put on a defensive clinic thus far this season, ranking No. 30 nationally in scoring defense and No. 17 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 54.4 points per game. Opponents are shooting 33 percent against the Tide which ranks fourth. Bama is tied for fifth in blocks, turning away 5.44 shots per contest.
Alabama will look to improve on its home record with six-straight home contests after the UT-Chattanooga game. The Tide will return home to host instate rival Alabama A&M on Dec. 17. UA will then play host to Hampton, who will be playing its first contest in 20 days against the Tide on Dec. 20. Alabama will close out 2007 on Dec. 22 against Jacksonville State. UA opens 2008 against East Tennessee State on Jan. 2 and then hosts Southeastern Louisiana on Jan. 5. Alabama dives into SEC play against South Carolina on Jan. 10.
The University of Alabama, in association with Tuscaloosa City and County Schools, is introducing the 5th Grade Fastbreak program a comprehensive educational and athletic curriculum designed to engage Tuscaloosa’s fifth grade students in basketball-related activities in subjects including math, language arts and character education. The program will run parallel to the Alabama women’s basketball season, beginning in the fall semester and concluding in March.
Alabama will return home for the remainder of 2007. The Tide will host Alabama A&M on Dec. 17. Tipoff is slated for 11:30 a.m. from Coleman Coliseum. The game marks the 5th Grade Fastbreak Game of the Year as all City and County fifth grade classes will be invited to watch Alabama free of charge.