In one of the most surprising upsets that could possibly happen this Tuesday evening, North Alabama’s women’s basketball team defeated Vanderbilt 74-71 in the program’s first-ever Division I game.
Junior guard Kenysha Coulson sunk a free throw with 9.6 seconds remaining to put her team up three on the Commodores. Vanderbilt was unable to respond with a game-tying shot, and North Alabama celebrated accordingly.
UNA didn’t exactly enter the world of D-I to much fanfare. Sure, they finished last season 24-5, and had four starters returning, but they were also eliminated in the first round of both of the postseason tournaments they played in. As a new member of the Atlantic Sun Conference, the preseason coaches’ poll had the Lions finishing eighth out of nine teams in the standings
Even the team’s own head coach, Missy Tiber, was tepid about her team’s expectations as the athletics program entered its first D-I season.
“We have to be patient and enjoy the process,” Tiber said. “We can’t just expect because we won 24 games last year that if we don’t start fast out of the gate that we are not that same type of team because we are playing a different caliber of teams.
“We can’t lose sight of the fact that we have moved up a level and the competition is going to be greater. But that doesn’t mean we can’t play at a high level.”
But their performance on the court made it seem like the Lions were anything but cautious about this new season. They ended the first quarter up 28-11 and still led their opponents 39-34 at the half. It wasn’t even until the third quarter that they saw their first deficit of the night (41-40). Most of their highlights came from twins Emma and Ivy Wallen who made it rain buckets all over the court.
Life in Division-I won’t always be this perfect for North Alabama, but if they continue to storm their opponents the way they did tonight, their experience might come pretty close.