Vanderbilt had every opportunity to come away Saturday night with an SEC road win as they had a lead of 14 points in the second half but a domination on the glass by Alabama and their suffocating defense helped the Tide pull away for the 59-56 win.
Commodores senior center Luke Kornet was the go to guy for Vanderbilt down in Tuscaloosa. He was the lone Commodore in the 1st half that was producing points while playing stellar interior defense. Kornet finished the game with a his second consecutive double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds.It was an outstanding performance by Kornet but he didn't receive much help from his teammates.
Vanderbilt guard Matthew Fisher-Davis was held in check for the night and was a major focal point in the pre-game scouting report. Crimson Tide head coach Avery Johnson wanted someone else to beat them besides Fisher-Davis and that game plan worked. The Commodores leading scorer was held to 7 points on the night and Fisher-Davis had to fight for every shot he got.
Even with the Dores leading scorer missing in action, the game was tied at halftime and Vanderbilt came out blazing to start the second half. Three point field goals by Riley LaChance, Nolan Cressler (10 pts) and Payton Willis (10 pts) gave the Commodores a 14 point lead at 46-32 but that is where the shooting and offense in general ended.
Alabama followed Vanderbilt's hot 2nd half start with a 17-3 run that eventually put the Tide ahead for good. Strong defense and a domination of the glass helped Alabama sustain their lead. The Crimson Tide defense did a great job of denying the pass and pushing the Commodore shooters far past the three point line. When Vanderbilt did get a look at the basket, it was one and done as Alabama would shut down any possibilities for the Dores to get an offensive rebound.
Kornet was the lone Commodore playing physical and giving an extra effort on the glass. Several guys chipped in with rebounds but the overall effort wasn't there. Alabama finished the game with 46 total rebounds but especially dominated the offensive glass with 20 boards. Kornet had 13 rebounds himself and the next closest Commodore was Willis with five.
Vanderbilt had a chance late with less than a minute remaining. A Cressler three put the game within four and then a drive and score to the basket by Willis put the Dores down by two. Willis would be fouled and miss the foul shot but still within one possession. Alabama would turn the ball over and give Vanderbilt a chance at tying the game or taking the lead.
A timeout was called to set up the play but it didn't work as Willis turned the ball over. After fouling Alabama guard Dazon Ingram and him missing the second of his two foul shots, Vanderbilt had one last chance to extend the game.
Vanderbilt tried to line up a look from three but Alabama's defense was strong. Kornet was able to put up a shot but it was an awkward look that didn't fall through. It was a close game that was dictated by physical, tough play and Vanderbilt couldn't muster up enough grit to hang in for a road win.
The Commodores now fall to 8-7 on the season and 2-1 in the Southeastern Conference. Alabama improved to 9-5 overall and 2-0 in the SEC. Vanderbilt will be back home Tuesday to face probably the most talented college basketball team in the country. The Kentucky Wildcats come to Nashville for a 6 pm tip-off inside Memorial Gym, being aired on ESPN.