MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama women's basketball team has a shot at ending a 19-year NCAA Tournament drought.
The Crimson Tide (17-10, 7-7 Southeastern Conference) enters the final week of the regular season riding a three-game winning streak that has nourished those hopes.
A program that made the NCAA field annually from 1992-99 hasn't been back since, easily the SEC's longest absence.
"That's why you coach, that's why you play, is to compete in March and get to the postseason," fifth-year Tide coach Kristy Curry said. "That's why we're here. We're here to take this program back to a tournament it hasn't been to in 19 years. What a story it would be, especially for our senior class and for our fans. It's been a long drought. Most of our kids weren't even born at that time."
Alabama can't count on a bid yet. But the final week includes two games against Top 25 teams with chances for resume-building wins even before the SEC tournament.
No. 19 Georgia visits Thursday night and Alabama plays at No. 24 LSU on Sunday. Two wins would secure the Tide's first winning league mark in 20 years.
"When you look at past years in the SEC, 6-10, 7-9, 8-8, 9-7 have all gotten in," Curry said. "The most important thing that is within our control is just continue to win. Our focus is just to win the next game, and that's Georgia."
The Tide has made strides under Curry, a former Purdue and Texas Tech coach. But the program had a long way to go after winning just 29 league games in the 11 seasons before Curry's hiring in 2013
Alabama won 22 games last season — the most since the 1997-98 season — but went 5-11 in the league and was relegated to the WNIT. That still ended a five-year postseason drought.
Alabama has bolstered its NCAA case lately with wins over Mississippi, No. 15 Tennessee and Auburn after dropping four games in a row.
Led by point guard Jordan Lewis, forward Ashley Williams and leading scorer Hannah Cook, Alabama has dominated the fourth quarter by a combined 52-29 in the past two games.
Williams had double-doubles in each of the past two games to earn SEC player of the week honors. Lewis scored 14 fourth-quarter points at Tennessee.
The Tide had been 0-22 in Knoxville before that 72-63 victory. Two years ago, Alabama ended a 42-game winning streak to the Lady Vols.
"The response after the Tennessee game says a lot about where this basketball team's mind-set is at, especially with a win Sunday against a really good Auburn team," Curry said. "I think coaches always worry about a letdown but this group has great mind-set right now that the next game is all that matters.
"We have a sense of urgency and purpose about what we need to do. We know what we need to do. I'm really proud of their approach right now."
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