Vanderbilt Offense Presents Challenge

Opryland was still going strong the last time Alabama's basketball team had any fun at Vanderbilt. The former theme park in Nashville closed in 1997. Who would have dreamed that Bama's last basketball win over the Commodores, which had come in 1990, would still be the last win in 2011?

It is difficult to win against Vanderbilt in Memorial Gym in Nashville. For one thing, the Commodores have very good coaches and players. There is outstanding basketball tradition and great crowd support. Additionally, the old gym has a number of eccentric features. And, of course, not many teams shoot more free throws than the home team in Nashville.

The latest edition of Alabama basketball has overachieved during Southeastern Conference play. The Crimson Tide has the best record in the SEC at 7-1 at the halfway point of league play and Bama is 15-7 overall.

Alabama will be at Vanderbilt Thursday for an 8 p.m. CST tipoff. ESPN2 will televise the game.

The Commodores are ranked 23rd in the nation in one poll, 24th in another. Vandy is 4-4 in SEC games and 16-6 overall.

This is the second consecutive road game for Bama. The Tide knocked off Tennessee in Knoxville, 65-60, in overtime last weekend. Bama returns to Tuscaloosa Saturday to host Ole Miss.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant is not concerned about the Bama 10-game losing streak at Vanderbilt. "This is a different team from any of those," he said. "It's a different team from last year. We can't worry about what has happened in the past. Vanderbilt is a very good team. Our focus has to be on preparing and playing well.

"Winning is fun, so the guys are enjoying it, but we have to keep things in perspective. We have to keep our focus on the challenge."

Alabama has has 3-1 record in SEC road games and a 3-0 record against SEC Eastern Division teams. Bama has won 11 of its last 12 games. The Tide has an all-time record of 66-63 against Vanderbilt.

"This is a very tough league, and we're only halfway through (the SEC schedule)," Grant said. "Every game is going to be tough. Vanderbilt is a very versatile group. They can beat you on the perimeter; they can beat you inside; and they are also a very good defensive team. They pose a lot of problems."

Alabama has been giving its opponents problems, too, primarily in the form of defense.

"That's the thing that has given us a chance in very game and going forward for us to have a chance, that will have to be the case," Grant said.

It will be difficult against Vanderbilt, which averages 77.9 points per game, best in the SEC and 25th in the nation. At home, the Commodores have averaged 82.7 points per game.

Bama leads the SEC defensively, allowing just 57.1 points per game, third best in the nation. The Tide holds opponents to just 36.2 per cent shooting from the field, which is best in the nation. Alabama is also tops in the nation in scoring allowed per opponent possession, just 0.83 point. Bama is tops in the SEC and sixth nationally, averaging 9.6 steals per game.

Alabama's starting lineup is expected to be 6-8, 228-pound junior forward JaMychal Green (15.6 points, 7.5 rebounds per game); 6-8, 227-pound senior forward Chris Hines (5.1 points, 6.5 rebounds); 6-56, 210-pound sophomore forward Tony Mitchell (15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds); 6-3, 186-pound senior guard Charvez Davis (9.1 points); and 6-1, 180-pound freshman point guard Trevor Releford (9.9 points, 23.5 assists).

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