The Alabama women’s basketball team rallied its way to a 74-67 victory over Florida at Coleman Coliseum in its SEC opener on Thursday.

The Crimson Tide trailed by as many as 20 points in the second quarter, but slowly chipped away at the deficit and pushed forward in the second half.

“It just comes down to toughness,” Alabama coach Kristy Curry said. “Tonight the difference in the game was our toughness.”

Florida went on a 17-0 run in the first quarter to take an early 21-5 lead. The Gators took its biggest lead, 29-9, with 6:50 remaining in the second quarter, but the Crimson Tide responded with a 21-8 run. Alabama took full advantage of a technical foul called on the Florida bench with 4.6 seconds left until halftime. Jasmine Walker made a pair of free throws and Cierra Johnson hit a 3-pointer before the buzzer to make it 37-30 and swing the momentum in Alabama’s favor.

“It was a big spark,” Johnson said. “To see it go in is an amazing thing when you are trying to keep the momentum so just getting that basket and to see the celebration of the team to keep the momentum up, it was great.”

Johnson also made a buzzer-beating layup at the end of the third quarter to give Alabama a 51-49 lead, bringing the crowd to its feet. She finished with 19 points, including three 3-pointers and went 6 of 7 from the free throw line.

Alabama took its first lead since the opening minutes when Johnson hit another 3 with 5:52 left in the third quarter to put Alabama up 39-38. From there, the Crimson Tide outlasted the Gators in a back-and-forth affair.

“It took a tremendous amount of moments that I will probably lay there tonight and think about that were just big difference makers for us and was just really big momentum for us,” Curry said.

Jasmine Walker led Alabama with 23 points. She went 5 of 6 from 3-point range and 4 of 4 from the free throw line.

“I was just hitting open shots and playing my game and staying focused, just being aggressive in the paint,” Walker said.

Shaquera Wade finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Funda Nakkasoglu led Florida with 18 points, hitting four 3s and Zada Williams added 11 points.

“I thought that Cierra, and (Shaquera) and (Jasmine), our big three, their poise and their toughness, they just weren’t going to lose,” Curry said.

Alabama (9-5, 1-0) travels to No. 25 South Carolina on Sunday. Tipoff is scheduled for 11 a.m.

Alabama announced some bad news before Thursday’s game as point guard Jordan Lewis will miss the rest of the season after sustaining a broken wrist in the Crimson Tide’s win over Virginia on Dec. 20.

Lewis is tied for the team lead with 13.5 points per game and tops the team with 3.1 assists per contest in eight games this season. She has started in all 73 games of her career and is currently No. 9 all-time in career assists at Alabama.

Reach Joey Chandler at joey.chandler@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0223.

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