February 14, 2011 8:55:00 AM
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Senior forward Tierney Jenkins scored a game-high 18 points Sunday afternoon to lead the University of Alabama women''s basketball team to a 64-59 win against the University of Florida in its first game at newly renovated Foster Auditorium.
Junior guard Ericka Russell and freshman forward Kaneisha Horn each scored 12 points as the Crimson Tide notched their first victory in the historic building since last playing here Dec. 3, 1981.
Alabama (13-12, 2-10 Southeastern Conference) has won two of its past three games, while Florida drops to 14-13 and 4-9 SEC.
"This was the way we wanted to open this building," Alabama coach Wendell Hudson said. "We played hard. We were down 10 at the half and then when we made that run the energy in this building really showed up and it gave us a kick. It gave us a boost."
Trailing 34-24 at intermission, Alabama used a 13-1 run in the first 6 minutes, 4 seconds of the second half to take a 37-35 lead. During the stretch, the Crimson Tide forced 10 turnovers, including five straight at one point, and held the Gators without a field goal. From there, the Crimson Tide took a 53-43 lead at the 8:49 juncture following a Russell layup that came courtesy of a full-court pass from senior point guard LaToya King.
Alabama outscored Florida 29-9 in the first 10 minutes of the second half, connecting on seven of its first 10 shots, including a pair of 3-pointers from Russell and freshman Jasmine Robinson, who added seven points.
After settling into a groove following the opening run of the half, Alabama held a 57-48 lead with a little more than five minutes remaining before the Gators scored seven straight points to pull within two at the 4:05 juncture.
Following an Alabama timeout, Horn connected on a jumper in the lane with just five seconds left on the shot clock. King added a pair of free throws a minute later to push the lead to 61-55 with 2:23 remaining.
On the ensuing possession Florida''s Ndidi Madu scored to pull the Gators within four points, but Alabama, which had a season-high 19 steals as part of 28 Florida turnovers, held the Gators scoreless in the final two minutes before allowing a basket with one second left.
"We made some of the same mistakes down the stretch that we had made at other times, but the energy never quit," Hudson said. "When we came back and made some free throws and some other shots, the energy was right there. I didn''t want it to have to be that close to get the energy to that level, but it completely proved that if you can get a home-court advantage and people will come out and cheer that really makes a big difference."
Horn scored the first basket of the game at 19:13, marking the first points scored in the newly renovated Auditorium.
Alabama will play at 6 p.m. Thursday at Auburn.
1. Former Bulldogs Brown, Lovelady set for pro ball COLLEGE SPORTS