Tide's Bad Night Against Good Team

The Alabama basketball team picked a bad night to have a bad night against a good team. Coming off a tough loss in Starkville last weekend and facing a daunting task this Saturday at Kentucky, the Crimson Tide needed to find a way to beat Vanderbilt at home Thursday night.



Alas, the Tide could not as the veteran Commodores pummeled a much younger Alabama squad 69-59 in a contest that was not that close. Not much went right for Bama on this night. There was a late rally to make the score more respectable and the return of both an injured player and a venerable Bama football coach, but not much else to smile about.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said Vanderbilt "came out with great aggressiveness on the defensive end and took us out of a lot of things. We got down, but our guys continued to fight in the second half. We struggled to get shots to fall."

Alabama shot 33 per cent for the game to Vandy's 40 per cent.

The 10-point loss was the worst home defeat in Grant's teunure at Bama's coach, which is in its third season.

Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings said, "It's very important (to have a veteran team on the road). We've been a good road team this year. What we did tonight I thought was very impressive."

"We set our minds to play more physically," said senior Vandy center Festus Ezell.

Junior Vanderbilt guard John Jenkins said, "We wanted to come out and play with poise. That's how you win on the road in the SEC."

Alabama dropped to 13-5 overall and 2-2 in the SEC. Jenkins scored 10 points to lead all scorers and senior Jeffrey Taylor added 17 for the Commodores. Ezell had 12 points and 10 rebounds. NBA scouts were on hand to watch those three, all considered professional prospects.

Alabama's upperclassmen didn't help themselves with the scouts. Junior Tony Mitchell was held scoreless and senior JaMychal Green had six points and eight rebounds.

The Tide was led by sophomore Trevor Releford, who had 14 points and six steals. True freshmen Levin Randolph and Trevor Lacey scoed 13 and 10 respectively. Randolph's 13 was a career high.

Just after scoring a basket, freshman inside player Nick Jacobs was helped off the court with an injury with 13:58 left in the half. He was replaced by 7-0, 280-pound sophomore Moussa Gueye, making just his second appearance after a summer knee injury. In his first minute on the court, Gueye got his first career Tide points off a Lacey assist for a 13-7 Alabama lead that capped an 11-12 Bama run.

Jacobs, who twisted an ankle, returned later in the half and started the second half, but totaled only eight minutes.

Grant said Gueye "gave us some quality minutes." He finished with five points, two rebounds, and two blocks, all career highs, in 14 minutes of play.

Of the Tide's first half points, six came off turnovers, largely due to the press, which once resulted in a 10-second call against the Commodores (14-4, 4-0), and Bama's second of the season.

An 8-2 Vandy run tied matters at 19 at 3:28. The Commodores then scored seven straight points and had a 26-19 halftime lead. Alabama did not score in the final six and a half minutes of the first half and Vanderbilt ended the half on a 19-6 run.

Junior Andrew Steele was able to play only three first half minutes and left with what appeared to be a head injury. He was recently cleared to resume playing after a history of concussions.

An Alabama spokesman said Steele would continue to be evaluated and could not say if he had suffered a concussion. He said Steele felt better near the end of the game.

At halftime, former Alabama Football Coach Gene Stallings presented the Sportsmanship Aware from the Awards and Recognition Association to Tide tackle Barrett Jones.

After halftime, things went from bad to worse.

Vandy opened the second stanza with yet another run, this one 11-5, to open up a 37-24 margin three minutes into the game.

At the 12:03 mark, after what appeared to be a missed call by official Mike Stuart, Grant had an animated conversation with the official and drew a technical foul. Two free throws on the technical and a three-pointer on the possession increased the Vanderbilt lead to 49-31.

"We have to continue to compete and control what we can control," Grant said. "I don't remember the call. I would say it was probably a build-up of frustration on my part.

For the night, Alabama was whistled for 23 fouls. Vandy was charged with 12. The Commodores shot 29 free throws to Bama's 10. Stallings pointed out that his team shot 44 free throws in its last game, a 77-66 win over Georgia.

The Commodores led by as many as 23. Vandy out-rebounded the Tide 48-35.

Vandy has won nine of the last 12 meetings between the two.

Alabama goes to Lexington Saturday to face second ranked Kentucky at 11 a.m. CST on CBS-TV. The Wildcats are 18-1 and 3-0 in the SEC, joining Vanderbilt as the only teams with perfect SEC records.

Kentucky has 46 consecutive home wins.

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