Junior Ashley Williams’ double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds propelled the Alabama women’s basketball team to an 81-57 victory over Mercer in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament on Thursday in Coleman Coliseum. With the win, the Crimson Tide moves to 20-13 on the season, marking its first 20-win season since the 1998-99 campaign.

“I was really pleased with our kids today,” said Alabama head coach Kristy Curry. “It’s a hard week in the fact that you have so much time from when you’ve finished your (conference) tournament. Everybody else is on spring break having a fun time, and we are practicing. I really have a lot of respect, especially for these two (Ashley Williams and Hannah Cook) for their leadership this week. It’s just a testament to how much our kids want to win and continue to grow the program and be successful. We learned how it felt a year ago losing at Tulane. To get a 20th win today is a step forward, and I’m real proud of our team.”

Joining Williams in double figures were juniors Quanetria Bolton (14) and Hannah Cook (10), sophomore Shaquera Wade (12) and freshman Jordan Lewis (10). Williams’ 12 rebounds were also a game high, while Lewis dished out a game-best seven assists. Junior Meoshonti Knight finished with a career-high three blocks.

The Bears (25-7) were led by juniors Kahlia Lawrence, who finished with 19 points, and Sydni Means, who added 15 points, five rebounds and five assists.

Alabama got off to a 4-0 start and never looked back. The Tide went on to lead by nine in the quarter and took a 15-8 advantage into the second. Williams played a solid opening 10 minutes as she collected seven points, shooting 3-for-3 from the floor, and five rebounds.

The Tide outscored Mercer, 14-7, over a five minute span to pull away, 29-15. Alabama remained in front by double digits until late in the quarter when the Bears closed out the half with 11 unanswered, setting the score at 33-30 in favor of the Tide at the break.

The third started out back and forth, however Alabama would make its run and pull away midway through and close out the period by outscoring Mercer, 14-4. The Tide would lead, 56-40, heading into the final frame.

Alabama continued to distance itself from the Bears in the fourth, despite a push from Mercer with three minutes to go. The Tide then strung together 10 unanswered over a two-minute span to seal the victory.

For the game, Alabama shot 51.7 percent (31-60), while Mercer finished 33.3 percent (27-81) from the floor. The Tide outrebounded the Bears by 10, 48-38, and scored 44 points in the paint compared to Mercer’s 12.

Next up, Alabama hosts Little Rock in the second round of the WNIT on Sunday, March 19. Tip is slated for 2 p.m. CT.

“We really appreciate our fans that were in the building today, including our band and everyone else that was here to support us, added Curry. “We need a great crowd in here on Sunday. That would give us a great home-court advantage.”