Alabama seeks to get a signature win against FloridaBy Matt Speakman | 01/21/2016 9:09am
Women's basketball will face off against Vanderbilt in Nashville on Monday, Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. CW | Marie Walker
On Jan. 21, the Alabama women’s basketball team has an excellent chance to pick up a signature win. The Crimson Tide travels to Gainesville, Florida, to take on the No. 22/23-ranked Florida Gators in the team’s third conference road test.
“It [will] tell us a little bit about what we are made of,” said Alabama coach Kristy Curry. “Its just about our character and down deep inside as a competitor. We’ve got to find depth and character on the road.”
A game like this one will see if Alabama is the type of team to withstand the tough conference schedule that teams in the SEC have to go through day in and day out. With seven teams ranked, Alabama will face ranked, tournament teams throughout its conference schedule, and a win on the road against one of them could give them the confidence they need to improve off of last year’s conference performance.
Florida heads into the matchup with a 15-3 record overall, going 3-2 in conference matchups thus far. One of Florida’s most surprising losses came to the Georgia Bulldogs, who Alabama defeated 64-50 this past Sunday.
The task of going on the road and upsetting an experienced, ranked team such as the Gators comes with tests of its own. Alabama, a predominantly young team, has a myriad of players who have not been tested in tough, SEC matchups such as this. Players like senior forward Nikki Hegstetter will be charged with the task of keeping the young players calm and collected in a tough environment.
“It is one of those things where you have to reel someone in and tell them they have done this before,” Hegstetter said. “You have to grab someone by the shirt and say, ‘You are playing basketball. You have played basketball your whole life. Take a deep breath and shoot the ball.’ ”
Currently, Alabama leads the all-time series against Florida 29-26, but it has failed to beat the Gators in the last five meetings. This will be the 56th matchup between the two teams and the 23rd meeting in Gainesville. Alabama’s last win in Gainesville came in 2010, when the Crimson Tide fought its way to a 66-61 victory midway through its conference schedule.
“It is a typical SEC team,” Curry said. “All SEC teams are very successful with the athleticism and the pressure defense and the ability to score quick as well as score in bunches.”
Florida entered into the top 25 for the first time since the 2008-2009 season. The Gators soared into the rankings after statement victories over Ole Miss and Tennessee. Florida has a balanced attack, with its leading scorer, senior Ronni Williams, averaging 10.5 points per game. Williams is also the teams leading rebounder, averaging 7.7 rebounds per game.
Alabama will need to be able to shut down multiple facets of Florida’s offense to ensure a victory. Florida rebounds the basketball better than anyone in the SEC, averaging a league-best 46.0 rebounds per game. The Gators also play stout defense, forcing an SEC-best 13.0 steals per game.
“We have got to rebound the basketball,” Curry said. “They are incredible on the glass.”
The Crimson Tide and Florida Gators will face off on Jan. 21 in Gainesville at 6 p.m. on SEC Network+.