Comeback leads Tide to winBy Brett Hudson | 02/13/2011 9:30pm
With excitement in the arena building, he had to leave his office and go somewhere else so he could focus on the Crimson Tide’s upcoming game against Florida and not the fans coming for Foster Auditorium’s grand opening.
Foster Auditorium was full of Alabama legends and wild fans as Alabama overcame a 10-point deficit at halftime to eventually win 64-59 over the Gators in the grand opening of Foster Auditorium.
Hudson had high remarks for the atmosphere in Foster’s debut.
“I feel like this was one of those games where it’s real simple: home court advantage,” Hudson said. “Once we got the crowd back in the game, the players really fed off of that energy.”
Hudson, and everyone else in the arena, could notice a change in Alabama’s body language once the crowd got louder.
“You could see it in their eyes,” Hudson said. “They felt like, ‘Hey, we got this game. This is our game.’”
The crowd at Foster played a major role in Alabama’s win, a role Hudson is looking forward to having filled for every home game.
“Even before I came to Alabama, I thought Foster would be a great atmosphere for women’s basketball,” Hudson said. “I think Florida definitely doesn’t want to come back here. There isn’t anywhere else where the crowd is right on top of you like it is here.”
Senior forward Tierney Jenkins loved the atmosphere created in Foster.
“It really was like a sixth defender,” Jenkins said. “We really wanted to win this for them.”
The much-awaited tip-off was won by Florida, but the first basket of Alabama’s move to Foster was scored by freshman Kaneisha Horn, two of her 12 points on the night.
The Tide found itself down by 34-24 after a physical first half. Senior forward Jenkins had half of Alabama’s first half points, and shot 4-for-6 from the field and made all four of her free throws.
Shooting woes have been hurting the Tide ever since Southeastern Conference play started, and the first half of this game was no different. Junior guard Erika Russell was 0-for-6 in the first half, four of them from behind the arc in her 18 first half minutes. Alabama was also outscored in the paint, 20-8.
The second half was a completely different story for the Tide.
“Coach told us that we really needed to key in on defensive intensity,” Jenkins said. “He said we were stagnant, that we need to move around on offense more.”
Hudson made sure that all these adjustments to be made were followed by a reminder.
“The last thing I told them before we left the locker room was that this 20 minutes is our 20 minutes,” Hudson said.
The halftime adjustments clearly worked for the Tide.
Russell made her first basket of the game with 15:52 left, then followed it with two free throws and then another jump shot. She had the first six points of what ended up being an 18-6 run for the Tide, resulting in a 53-43 lead for Alabama with 8:49 remaining.
“Coach just told us to come out with more energy,” Russell said. “I just focused more, put more legs into my shots and they started to fall.”
The Tide as a whole made drastic shooting improvements after halftime. After a 38 percent shooting performance in the first half, the Tide shot 48 percent from the field in the second half, and knocked down 50 percent of three-pointers and 14-of-17 free throws.
The most important of these improvements could be free throws. The Gators fouled often against Alabama, having one player foul out and another three have three personal fouls. The Tide found itself at the free throw line often because of this and made the most of their opportunities.
Jenkins, sophomore Celiscia Farmer, senior LaToya King and freshman Khristin Lee were all perfect from the charity stripe. The Tide combined to shoot 77.8 percent from the line for the game and shot a clutch 82.4 percent during the second half.
Besides being perfect from the line, Alabama’s Jenkins was a very big part of the win, just as she seems to be a big part of all of the Tide’s wins. She nearly had a triple-double, going for 18 points, nine steals and eight rebounds.
“This win was big-time,” Jenkins said. “I’m glad the fans were here. Hopefully they could see that we’re talented, that we’re better than our record may show.”