Foul Night For Tide Losing To Vandy

Anyone who has watched Southeastern Conference basketball for any of the past 50 years or so knows that Vanderbilt is going to shoot a lot of free throws and make most of them. Even a bad team like this year’s Commodores edition can win if Vandy gets to the free throw line.

Alabama not only put Vanderbilt on the free throw line, Bama failed too often on its relatively few foul shot chances. Throw in a bizarre gift of four Vandy free throws, and it helps explain Vanderbilt’s 76-68 win over the Tide in Coleman Coliseum Saturday night.

The loss dropped Alabama to 15-9 overall and 5-7 in SEC games, while Vanderbilt got its first SEC road win and improved to 14-11, 4-8.

Even with a half dozen Vandy free throws in the last minute when Bama was in desperation mode, the foul shot disparity was dramtic, though not unexpected. The Commodores made 28-35, Alabama 11-17.

That wasn’t the only problem for the Tide, though. Vanderbilt shot 47.7 per cent from the field (21-44), while Bama was 23-58 for 39.7 per cent. A strength for Alabama was three-point shooting, Bama making 11-24, the 45.8 per cent percentage far better than on non-treys. The Commodores made 6-15 three-pointers.

Alabama outscored Vanderbilt 57-48 from the field.

Bama star Levi Randolph was missing in action for most of the game, at least from a scoring standpoint. He didn’t make his first basket until hitting a three-pointer with 13:32 remaining in the first half. He finished with 15 points to lead the Tide. Shannon Hale and Retin Obasohan had 10 each.

Vanderbilt was led by Damian Jones, who was 7-11 from the field and 6-9 on free throws for 20 points.

Bama had only seven turnovers, but Vandy turned them into 10 points. The Tide made only two points off Vanderbilt’s six turnovers.

Alabama had a 38-30 advantage in rebounding and an 18-9 lead on second chance points. Vanderbilt, however, had a 24-18 advantage in the paint.

Riley Norris led Bama in rebounding with 8 and also contributed 5 points before fouling out.

Alabama next goes to Auburn for the Tide’s second game of the year against the Tigers. Tipoff Tuesday will be at 8 p.m. with television coverage by ESPNU. Bama escaped with a 57-55 win over Auburn in Tuscaloosa earlier this season.

Alabama had a one-point lead at halftime , but didn’t keep it for long and it was a back-and-forth game until Randolph and Coleman hit consecutive three-point shots and Randolph added a short jumper for a 46-42 lead with just over 12 minutes to play.

Norris and Justin Coleman made consecutive treys to maintain the four-point lead, but the Vandy free throwfest started about midway through the period and the Commodores kept it close and eventually took the lead for good at 64-63 with just under four minutes.

Eight of the Commodores last 10 points were on foul shots as Vandy pulled away.

Although Alabama scrambled to take a 33-32 first half lead, it was a disappointment. Bama had a 33-28 lead and shooting a one-and-one free throw with under 10 seconds until intermission. The first free throw missed and Vandy went the length of the court driving for a possible score. A foul was called, giving Vanderbilt two free throws with two seconds to play. The Tide compounded the situation with a technical foul.

The result: the Commodores shot and made four free throws.

It was almost worse. Bama tried a length of court pass that went out of bounds, giving Vandy the ball out under its basket. Fortunately for Alabama, the last second shot to take the lead fell off the rim.

Alabama has the lead for the first seven minutes of the game, but the Commodores fought back to tie and then take the lead, getting out to six-point lead at 19-13. A Shannon Hale trey cut the lead back to three and with just over three minutes to play a Rodney Cooper three-pointer over the Vanderbilt zone tied the game at 26-26.

Retin Obasohan got into the three-point act with 1:37 to play to give the Tide a 31-28 lead and moments later Obasohan had a nice baseline jumper to make it 33-28 before the late period unglue.

Vandy star Damian Jones played only 11 minutes because of foul problems, but had eight points at the half. Bama’s Jimmie Taylor, Riley Norris and Cooper also had two fouls in the first half.

Alabama had a 25-12 first half rebounding advantage (10-1 in offensive boards) and had a 12-1 margin in second chance points.

TIDE NOTES: Starters for the Crimson Tide were point guard Justin Coleman, guard Levi Randolph, wing Rodney Cooper, forward Shannon Hale, and center Jimmie Taylor.

Alabama plays Vanderbilt again in two weeks in Nashville.

After going to Auburn Tuesday, the Tide will be home for games next Saturday against Georgia and on Feb. 24 against South Carolina.

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