Ivy and Emma Wallen, have been playing basketball together since a young age and it eventually led them here, to the North Alabama women’s basketball team. Both 5’7 guards came out of Lauderdale County high school with an intent to sign and play with each other at the next level.
In the two seasons before the twins chose UNA, the women’s basketball team only won 20 games with a 20-34 record over that span. In their first two years, the team jumped to a 19-10 record in 2016-2017 and a 24-5 record in 2017-2018.
“I really think when we were in high school we didn’t think about their wins or losses,” said Ivy Wallen. “We knew that they weren’t the best team in the conference, but that’s what we talked about with Coach Tiber. It was really about changing the culture around here, we have always been up for the challenge.”
Coach Tiber came to North Alabama in 2013 and has been one of the main contributors to getting the Wallen Twins on campus in 2016.
“I think it is one reason we chose here (UNA),” said Emma Wallen. “Yes, it is local, but we got along with Coach Tiber from the start. We liked her style of play, the way she coaches is a lot like our high school. [The biggest] thing is she holds us accountable, she doesn’t let us settle for what we’ve done in the past. She wants us to get better and be better.”
Ivy and Emma both led the team with over 1000 minutes last season and led the team in minutes per game with both over 33 a game, and the next closest player is Ansley Eubank with just over 29 from a season ago.
“It shows the trust she has in us,” said Ivy Wallen. “That we can stay mentally and physically healthy on the court, we also didn’t have a deep bench last year. It definitely shows the trust she has in us to run her offense the way she wants it ran.”
The Lions finish last season with a 21-9 record and a home playoff loss to North Florida, 55-53. Near the end of the season, Ivy Wallen developed a Bi-Lateral Meniscus tear and completed the end of the season with the tear.
“It affected a little bit on how I played,” said Ivy Wallen. “Tiber really worked with us though, and we changed a little bit of our offense to help. We made it far, with or without me being hurt I don’t see our season being very much different. Maybe we go further, but that is only a maybe.”
Ivy and Emma raked in 13.9 and 13.4 points per game respectively for second and third best on the team behind Brittany Panetti. Emma led the team in free throw percentage with 50 or more attempts. She connected on 78.2 percent of the attempts last year, while her sister came in right behind her with a 75.9 percentage for the season.
“I guess that is the difference for me,” said Emma Wallen. “I kind of took it upon myself going into my junior year, to make sure that I kept it that high. It is about the accountability [from Tiber] that she wants the ball in my hands. I didn’t even know my percentage was that high, but I will be looking to do the same thing this year.”
In the first year of Division-I, the Wallen twins led North Alabama to a 21-9 record and then to the ASUN tournament. After the loss on their home court, the Lions were awaiting the call for the Women’s Basketball Invitational.
“We didn’t know if we were gonna get in, so we were practicing,” said Ivy Wallen. “We kept practicing and we were all thinking ‘I hope this isn’t for nothing’ and ‘How hard do you practice?’. When we got the news though, we said ‘That’s what all this is for’. That is what brought our team together and helped push us throughout the WBI.”
UNA lost to North Florida in the opening round of the ASUN tournament at home a season ago. Then the Lions got the call from the WBI which led to them beat Georgia State and Southern Miss to advance to the WBI semi-final where they fell short to North Texas 56-53.
This year the team is No. 3 in the ASUN pre-season poll. This poll is a vote from the coaches around the league and their thoughts on where teams should rank.
“It is an honor to be honest,” said Ivy Wallen. “We felt like we were pretty low last year, and the team got together this year to talk about where we feel where we rank this year. We had ourselves lower than the coaches did this year, it surprised us when we saw we were No.3. It shows that we have respect in this conference.”
The Wallen twins and North Alabama debut their season on Nov 7 against Virginia University of Lynchburg at Flowers Hall.
“We want a championship,” said Ivy and Emma Wallen. “A bunch of the seniors talked and we dont want to lose those games,” said Emma Wallen. “We don’t want to beat ourseleves, that is how you win championships, we deserve this.”
The Lions have a 28-game schedule on their paws this year before they can thibk about the ASUN tournament. Their first ASUN game will be held on Jan. 4 in Florence against their opening round tournament loss, North Florida. The game is a chance to get back at the team that knocked the lions out of the ASUN tournament in the first round last season.