It looked like it was going to be the 12th straight loss for Alabama against Vanderbilt in Nashville, a losing streak going back to 1990. But in a remarkable final seven minutes, Bama came from 11 points behind to earn a 58-54 win over the Commodores.
The Crimson Tide outscored Vandy by 18-3 in the final seven minutes in Nashville to get the Southeastern Conference road win. Bama had not been tied or led in the game since a 3-0 Vanderbilt start until the final three and a half minutes. Bama tied the game with 3:29 to play at 53-53, completing a 13-2 run. It was the only tie in the game.
A Vanderbilt backdoor play worked, but Levi Randolph’s foul prevented the basket and the Commodores had only a one-point lead when the Tide called time out with a minute to play.
Coach Anthony Grant drew up a nice play, or at least made nice when Trevor Lacey drained a three-point shot with 57 seconds to play. Bama had its first lead at 56-54. It would be the only lead change in the game.
The Commodores would not score again and the Tide made a couple of free throws in icing the victory.
Alabama improved to 14-7 overall and 6-2 in SEC games. The Commodores fell to 8-12 overall and 2-6 in the league.
Alabama continues on the road playing at Auburn at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
It would be nice to report that Alabama played a solid game in Nashville, but for 33 of the 40 minutes it was not a highlight reel for the Crimson Tide. There was bad shot selection, costly turnovers, and lackluster defense – particularly on three-point Vandy shots in which there was non-existent pressure.
But there were high points, notably the off-the-bench play of Alabama’s one senior, Andrew Steele.
Lacey led the Tide with 17 points with Steele pitching in 13 and Rodney Cooper getting 11, and also leading Bama in rebounding with 11. Lacey hit only 4-10 from the field, but made 3-4 on three-pointers. Steele was also 3-4 on treys as he hit 5-7 field goal attempts. Kedren Johnson with 15 points and Kyle Fuller with 13 led the Commodores. Johnson also had four blocked shots as the Commodores managed with blocks against the Tide.
They may put up a commemorative plaque at Memorial Gym marking the day a team beat the Commodroes by making more free throws. Both teams had 19 field goals and Vandy had one more three-pointer. But Alabama made 13-18 free throws, Vanderbilt 8-12. Both teams were more accurate on three-point shots than two-point shots. Bama hit 19-50 for 38 per cent and 7-16 on three-pointers for 43.8 per cent (meaning the Tide was 12-34 for 35.3 per cent on two-point tries). Vanderbilt made 19-39 (48.7 per cent) and blistered Bama on 8-15 three-point shooting (53.3 per cent). The Commodores made 11-24 on two-point tries, 45.8 pr cent. Vandy had a 31-27 advantage in rebounding, but the Commodores made 17 turnovers, Alabama only 9.
The Tide outscored the Commodores 22-14 in the paint, 18-14 off turnovers, and 10-2 on second chance opportunities.
Alabama trailed by 31-24 at the half, and it is not good to give up 31 points in a half when the odds are good that you are not going to score 60. The Commodores had shot 57.9 per cent from the field and 71.4 per cent (5-7) on three-point shots in the opening 20 minutes.
Alabama had its first half moments, primarily based on its press, but the game was all but over when the Tide allowed 5-7 on three-point shots (all of them unguarded) and trailed by 31-23.
(Adding to the frustration of Bama’s defensive malaise, the Commodores got the second half started with another unguarded three-pointer to increase the lead to nine points.)
Vandy opened the game with an unguarded trey and never trailed again until Alabama’s magnificent finish.
Andrew Steele gave the Tide some life with a stretch of five points on a trey and a drive and then making a steal that led to an Alabama layup at the other end.
Bama had a few other fast breaks, but Vanderbilt was back quickly on defense. Too often, the Tide tried to force the issue against bad numbers and came up empty.
Alabama was down by only 24-20 approaching intermission, but the Tide was outscored 7-3 down the stretch. Alabama had opportunity for the last basket of the first half, but in an even more futile than usual effort, Bama threw up an air ball.
TIDE NOTES: In some respects, this game followed the script of recent Alabama-Vanderbilt contests. Eight of the last nine games between the Tide and Commodores have been decided by 10 or fewer points with six of those contests decided by five or fewer.
Bama ended a three-game winning streak by Vandy, making it Grant’s first win over the Commodores.
Alabama and Vanderbilt have played 132 games and nothing has been decided (though you’d have a hard time convincing Bama partisans of that today). The teams are tied at 66-66 in the series.
The Tide’s last previous win over Vanderbilt in Memorial Gym was almost 13 years ago to the day. On Feb. 3, 1990, Coach Wimp Sanderson’s Crimson Tide took a 65-56 win in Nashville.
Alabama had the same starting lineup for the fourth consecutive game, junior center Moussa Gueye surrounded by four guards, junior Trevor Releford and sophomores Trevor Lacey, Levi Randolph, and Rodney Cooper.