Road Tough On Tide

Music City hasn't been much fun for Alabama. The road is a tough place. Alabama basketball has been particularly weak as a road team in recent years, and Vanderbilt has been one of the really tough spots for Bama. It was no different Wednesday night as the Crimson Tide fell to the Commodores, 70-56, Alabama's eighth straight basketball loss in Nashville.

It was the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams. Alabama, ranked 18th in the nation in the Coaches' Poll and 19th by the Associated Press, fell to 11-3 overall. Unranked Vanderbilt is now 10-4 with a 10-0 mark at Nashville's Memorial Gym.

The Crimson Tide continues in SEC play Saturday hosting LSU at 5 p.m. Saturday at Coleman Coliseum.

It was the second disappointment in Nashville within a week for Alabama teams. Bama's football team fell to Minnesota, 20-16, in last Friday's Music City Bowl.

It was hardly a fluke. Vanderbilt outworked Alabama defensively and on the boards. Alabama was careless with the basketball, commiting too many turnovers. And Vandy shot much better than Bama.

Turnovers and foul trouble got Bama off to a bad start, quickly down by five points. The Tide tied it at 11-11, but even with Kennedy Winston scoring 10 first half points, the Tide had no other offense. Additionally, the Commodores controlled the boards, getting putback points off Vandy misses and fast break points off Bama misses. Vanderbilt had a double figures lead at 30-20 with over five minutes remaining in the first half.

Jermareo Davidson kept the Tide in the game until the final few minutes of the half, finishing the first half with 13 points. But because the Tide gave up three consecutive three-point shots in the final minutes, and a total of nine three-pointers in the first half, at intermission Alabama trailed by a dozen, 41-29.

It didn't take Vandy long to start the rout, hitting two three-pointers to start the second half and open up an 18-point lead before Bama could get a point. That deficit was quickly over 20, then to 26 with 15 minutes to play before Bama began the fight back. When Davidson completed a three-point play with five minutes to play, Bama was down by only eight at 64-56. But the Tide couldn't sustain the comeback. The Tide didn't score in the final five minutes.

Alabama was led by Davidson, who equaled his career best with 21 points. Winston finished with 16. Vanderbilt got 16 points each from Mario Moore and Jason Holwerda.

Alabama had been a high-scoring team for most of the pre-SEC season, but in recent games Bama has not been productive offensively. Against Vanderbilt, Bama hit only 39 per cent from the field, only 27 per cent on three-pointers. Vanderbilt hit 45 per cent from the field and 48 per cent on three-point shots. A major reason for the loss was Vanderbilt out-rebounding Bama by 41-25.

Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried was very disappointed. "We're not a very good basketball team right now," he said. "And we've got some veterans who have got to play better. We've got some issues on the perimeter, particularly defensively. They want to recreate last year's magic, but that's over. We've got to regroup."

The coach did praise the effort of Davidson, back-up Evan Brock, and Chuck Davis, even though Davis scored only four points, in part because he was in foul trouble.

He also said he was pleased with the Tide's effort to get back in the game.


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