KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — What started out as a laugher turned into a gut check for Tennessee.
Alabama rallies past Vanderbilt, 58-54
Lacey had a game-high 17 points. Steele added 13 points off the bench, and Rodney Cooper had 11.
Vanderbilt (8-12, 2-6) didn't hit a field goal after Kyle Fuller's 3-pointer with 7:10 left. Kedren Johnson had 15 points and Fuller 13.
The Crimson Tide came in tied with Kentucky for third in the SEC and traveling after edging Arkansas 59-56 in a late game Thursday night. Vanderbilt was well-rested after a 58-57 loss at Tennessee on Tuesday night, and the Commodores outshot Alabama 48.7 percent (19 of 39) to 38 percent (19 of 50) and outrebounded the Tide 31-27.
Vanderbilt was having its best shooting game this season, hitting around 60 percent in building a 51-40 lead on Fuller's third 3 of the game with 7:10 left. Then a team that came in next to last in the SEC scoring an average 59.6 points a game reverted to form and just couldn't close out against an Alabama defense that is the SEC's second-best, allowing 58.5 points per game.
The Tide finally started having success with the press defense and finished with 12 steals. Lacey tied it at 53 for the first tie of the game with a pair of free throws with 3:29 remaining, and Alabama was 9 of 13 at the line in the final 5:07. Both teams missed chances to score on their next two possessions, including a shot by Nick Jacobs that went in and out for Alabama.
Johnson hit a free throw for Vanderbilt to give the Commodores their last lead with 2:14 to go. Finally, Lacey threw up his fourth 3-point attempt from a couple of steps behind the arc to put Alabama ahead to stay.
Josh Henderson, who had just played his way back into the starting lineup for Vanderbilt, had a layup attempt blocked by Jacobs, and Fuller missed a layup down the stretch. Cooper and Lacey each hit a free throw to clinch the comeback.
The Commodores opened the game with a 3-pointer by Sheldon Jeter. Alabama turned it over on its first two possessions by walking, and the Tide also missed six of their first eight shots. Vandy led by as much as eight twice, the last on a 3-pointer by Fuller 32 seconds before the break and a 31-23 halftime edge.
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