FORT WORTH, Texas _ It came down to the final two possessions against a talented Duke women’s basketball team, but Alabama couldn’t pull off the win during its first game away from Coleman Coliseum on Sunday.
Megan Abrams led the way for Alabama, topping her career high in scoring with 27 points in the Crimson Tide's narrow 74-71 loss at the Maggie Dixon Classic.
Alabama had a 71-70 lead with 16 seconds left, and Duke was able to score on a Jade Williams layup with six seconds remaining. Abrams had a chance on the other end, but she was unable to score the layup and the Crimson Tide had to foul.
"A lot of tears in that locker room, I thought our kids showed a tremendous amount of grit," head coach Kristy Curry said postgame. "That's just a tough one to swallow."
Early on this season, Alabama has relied on its bigs to produce in the paint in order to get the offense going. Such was not the case in the matchup with the Blue Devils, as the Crimson Tide utilized its driving and shooting ability to score.
Alabama hit 53.8 percent from deep at a 7-for-13 clip, thanks in large part to 3 of 4 from Abrams and 2 of 4 from Brittany Davis.
"I thought they showed a lot of respect for our post that opened things up for others," Curry said. "I thought we made some great reads."
Alabama brought an aggressive mentality into the game, with its guards consistently attacking the rim. The effort was there, as the Crimson Tide had nine offensive rebounds through the first half and 15 in the game.
"Great effort by our kids today, and it was across the board," Curry said. "I thought we had great balance on the offensive glass."
Duke counteracted the Crimson Tide's aggressiveness by making acrobatic shots and not wasting transition opportunities. The Blue Devils shot an impressive 12 of 23 in the first half, helping them to a 34-30 halftime lead.
The Crimson Tide had success getting to the foul line and knocking down free throws in the first half, posting an 11-for-14 clip going into the break. Alabama was also kept in the game by timely threes from Megan Abrams and Hannah Barber, tying the game up at 25 halfway through the second quarter after being down 20-14 to begin the second quarter.
The two squads battled hard throughout the third quarter, going back and forth. Alabama sprung for a 6-0 run late in the quarter, and the Crimson Tide took its second lead of the game with a 52-51 score going into the final period. Megan Abrams and Myra Gordon led the run, with Abrams scoring and Gordon making the effort plays.
"She (Gordon) had a really good two days in practice, and minutes are earned in practice," Curry said. "I thought Myra came in and answered the bell in a big way. She was physical and aggressive. "
Alabama was able to build a 69-63 lead with 2:19 left in the game, but Duke responded again with solid defense and clutch free throws.
At the 1:48 mark, Myra Gordon was called for a shooting foul on Shayeann Day-Wilson, but replay seemed to show otherwise.
"It was unbelievable what happened, critical call," Curry said. "its just disappointing because when you walk in the locker room and see how hard your group competed, we don't have much margin for error and we can't have assistance. I thought Myra had a clean block. "
Nevertheless, Duke was able to get points on that possession and go on to win the game.
The effort plays and second chance points helped the Alabama effort greatly, but it was not enough to overcome Duke in Fort Worth.
"What this team needs, this team just needs to be in these situations and these moments to continue to grow and I just want them to stay positive and work through it," Curry said. "We just didn't get a break down the stretch.”
Alabama has a five-game home stand ahead, beginning Wednesday night at 6 p.m. CT against Mercer.