16:48 left, first half: Both teams getting good looks in the first three minutes and change. Vandy's defense was really poor on the first few possessions. In the past minute, the Dores have locked down nicely for 20 seconds, but have failed to keep Bama under wraps. Dribble penetration has to be choked off.
First TV timeout score (15:11): Alabama 9, Vanderbilt 7.
Observations: Unless the Crimson Tide really buckle down at the defensive end, Vandy should be able to get a good shot on a consistent basis. Jeffrey Taylor settled for a fadeaway jumper on VU's last possession. That kind of passivity is the last thing the Dores need. Strong cuts, hard drives to the goal, crisp passes, you name it--Vandy has to play forcefully and decisively on offense. Aggression will produce a victory against an Alabama team that's a step slow and susceptible to ball fakes.
14:46: Shoot that open six-footer, A.J. Ogilvy.
13:57: Sure enough, VU does get high-quality shots on the first two possessions following the TV timeout. Jermaine Beal knocks down a wide-open three, as Bama fails to react in transition.
13:28: An inability to box out leads to second-chance points for Bama. Aggressiveness remains the first priority for VU.
11:07: Oh, no--shades of the Florida collapse, as the Tide get an uncontested dunk thanks to flat-footed defense.
Second TV timeout score (11:00): Alabama 20, Vanderbilt 14.
Observations: VU really lost the plot on defense in the past few minutes. No blockouts, no one stopping the ball, no one giving up the body to make it difficult on the Tide's low-post players. Bama can't shoot from distance, so the visitors from Tuscaloosa have to clean up within six feet of the basket. Unfortunately, Kevin Stallings is watching his team allow Bama to do just that. An exception is Lance Goulbourne, who has provided solid, high-energy minutes for VU.
10:32: Alabama had another fast-break bucket, but a dropped pass bails out the Dores. Maybe that's a turning point in the making.
9:33: Horrible foul call on Vanderbilt. Should have been a held-ball ruling.
8:23: Vandy still getting smoked on dribble penetration. This defense has to tighten up.
Third TV timeout score (7:44): Alabama 24, Vanderbilt 20.
Observations: Alabama has committed some silly fouls and missed some chippies. Vandy is fortunate to be down by only four, although the men in white have remained solid at the offensive end. Ogilvy made a nice pass to feed Taylor, but he needs to become a more credible offensive threat if the Dores are to gain even better floor spacing against Alabama's defense. Neither team is fully settled in. The heat of the battle is yet to come.
6:32: Ogilvy, who has struggled mightily in terms of finishing near the rim, steps beyond the arc and nails a three to keep Vandy close. Whatever it takes... As long as Ogilvy can offer a scoring threat, Vandy's offense will benefit.
5:58: Ogilvy misses two more bunnies, and Bama responds with a three. The effort's there, but not the results, for VU's Australian anchor at center.
4:58: Ogilvy again from three. Amazing. Give the young man credit for doing something different and being very intent to remain a factor on the floor.
4:44: In the meantime, Bama has begun to heat up from three-point range as well. Defense remains the primary concern.
Fourth TV timeout score (3:53): Alabama 33, Vanderbilt 30.
Observations: Vandy's defensive rebounding really dropped off in the past 90 seconds. The first team to really lock down on defense will gain a huge advantage.
2:07: After Goulbourne comes up with a huge block to erase a Bama layup, Beal knocks down a medium-range jumper. Goulbourne is Vandy's first-half MVP.
1:18: Good grief. No way that's a foul on Ogilvy. You have to be kidding. A double foul at the absolute worst, but that sure looked like a Crimson Tide foul, if anything.
0:45: Silly fouls like that one on Festus Ezeli have been abundant in the first half. As a result, Bama gets a double-bonus on a play that occurred 35 feet from the basket. Both free throws are good--ouch.
0:01: Another bit of flat-footed defense enables the Tide to snag one more offensive board and a putback basket. To the very end, defensive deficiencies have been crushing Kevin Stallings's squad.
Halftime score: Alabama 43, Vanderbilt 36.
Observations: The stat sheet doesn't lie or mislead on this night in Nashville. Bama with a 20-11 lead on the boards, easily the biggest reason for the Tide's 7-point lead. Both teams have four 3-point field goals, but Vandy needed twice as many attempts (14 to Bama's 7) to produce the same amount of points. This means that the Tide are doing a lot more damage near the basket. The Commodores simply have to be tougher, stronger and more inspired in the second half. Ironically, if Vandy can stuff Bama close to the rim, the Tide won't get open threes later in the game; that's how the first half progressed.
19:35 left, second half: Ogilvy finally gets a layup. Great way to start the second half, but again, this is all about defense for the Dores.
17:10: An "only at Memorial Gym" moment: Goulbourne, fighting for a loose ball underneath the basket, crashes into Bama's interim coach, Philip Pearson. Brad Nessler, calling the game for ESPN2, says, "Pearson takes a charge." Classic.
16:14: NO! The official completely misses an out-of-bounds call. The Vandy defender in question re-established position after being out-of-bounds, but was ruled to be out when he touched a loose ball.
15:43: Vandy doesn't get burned as a result of the bad call, and Charles Hinkle sticks a three at the other end. Encouraging response to adversity in that sequence.
First TV timeout score (15:35): Alabama 49, Vanderbilt 48.
Observations: The home team came up with a pair of high-level defensive stops in the past 30 seconds, but that doesn't represent a full-fledged shift in the dynamics of this contest. It's still an offense-first game that cries out for toughness. Nothing has fundamentally changed in the first 4:25 of the second stanza. Vandy's closer, but close counts only in horseshoes, not hoops.
15:02: There's another offensive rebound for Alabama. Bad foul call (the defense was good on the subsequent doubleteam), but nevertheless, Vandy has to make the Tide a one-and-done team.
15:01: Two missed free throws for the Tide. Poetic justice, given the poor call by the officials.
14:45: Another deep post-up by Ogilvy, and a layup. He's beginning to finish near the goal. Good sign.
14:09: That's another piece of good defense. A held-ball should have been called, but VU regroups and stays the course. The intensity is increasing, and not a moment too soon.
13:44: Ogilvy, gaining confidence, draws an offensive foul. He's really finding himself out there. The blood seems to be rushing through his veins again.
12:34: Brad Tinsley with a wide-open jumper to give VU a four-point lead. What was not a trend at the TV timeout has now been legitimized. Bama hasn't gotten a good look in several minutes.
11:45: SENSATIONAL SEQUENCE FOR VANDY! Steve Tchiengang nails a three, and then makes a diving effort to deflect a pass and cause a Bama turnover at the other end. Beal leads a Vandy fast break the other way, and makes a picture-perfect behind-the-back bounce pass to Taylor, who gently drops the ball in the bucket. All-out defense plus a Showtime-style fast break equals a seven-point lead.
Second TV timeout score (11:42): Vanderbilt 58, Alabama 51.
Observations: A Bama turnover creates the TV timeout, just a few seconds after the tremendous fast break orchestrated by Beal. Defense is the catalyst of this extended run by VU. The Dores just have to sustain their high effort level, and they'll find the winner's circle tonight.
11:00: Ogilvy with two authoritative blocks just a couple feet from the rim, and then more white-shirted bodies go to the floor to draw a held ball. LOVE IT! Stallings has to be ecstatic on the Commodore bench. Full-throttle effort by a team that, after being so cobwebby, is now selling out on each and every play.
10:20: ESPN2 shows the numbers: Vandy on a 19-4 run in the past 7:30. Four points in nearly eight minutes. That's lock-down defense, and that's a genuine trend.
9:03: Ogilvy is a man possessed, an animal with his defense, and a warrior on the glass. Please, let this incarnation of A.J. Ogilvy stick around for the remainder of this season........
8:45: Beal, after the superb Auburn game, drives for a layup and his 15th point. He's provided a consistent scoring presence for the Dores tonight.
Third TV timeout score (7:54): Vanderbilt 64, Alabama 57.
Observations: The lead had been 11 (62-51), but a careless turnover gave Bama a 4-0 mini-run. All in all, this game is being controlled by the Commodores, who don't have to change their plan at the moment. Vandy needs to be ready for any adjustments Mr. Pearson makes from the visitors' bench. On offense, it's important for VU to route the ball through Ogilvy and make sure the big guy gets at least a touch. If Bama's defense collapses, an open perimeter jumper will emerge.
7:40: Brad Tinsley hits a three to push the lead back to 10. Clutch shot, and a solidifier of momentum (not to mention scoreboard leverage as well).
7:30: Bama using full-court pressure--there's the Tide's adjustment. Vandy handles it well. Nice going.
7:00: Beal didn't appear to be fouled, but when you make a three, the points are in the bank, anyway.....
6:28: Vandy's ballhandling is slipping, but the Dores are still active on defense.
5:44: Another turnover, and then another near turnover as Taylor seemed to lose his footing for a moment. The game has become an unsettled, open-court affair, and the Tide--down by seven--have to like that development. Vandy has to settle things down, run their stuff, and re-establish the favorable tempo that has defined most of the second half.
5:42: Ugh! A missed front end of a one-and-one. That always stings. One miss in the scorebook, but it counts as two misses in real life.
5:13: Vandy doesn't just beat the press, but it scores against it. Very important.
4:26: Bama's Anthony Brock has hit two 3-point shots in the past minute or so. He's 4-4 from three for the game. Vandy has to close down on a hot shooter--get beaten once, shame on the shooter. Get beaten twice, shame on the defender.
4:04: The Dores are smart enough to feed Ogilvy again. Ogilvy is skilled enough to finish the play after making the catch near the basket. A three-point play takes a five-point lead back to eight.
3:50: Yeah, it was parking-lot "crazy range," but still: Brock hits another three. You have to close down on hot shooters even if they're in the parking lot. That's a concession you have to make.
Fourth TV timeout score (2:41): Vanderbilt 76, Alabama 74.
Observations: Bama--having an above-average night from three-point land--is raining triples on the Dores and quickly closing the gap. Some nights, teams get hot, particularly in scramble mode, when the nature of the game changes. The Tide played things conventionally for a long time, but when Pearson chose to increase the tempo, Bama's game plan acquired a noticeably different shape. Beal saved another turnover with a heady play near midcourt. It's a 94-foot game, and Vandy needs to make it a grinding halfcourt battle if at all possible. Oh, one other thing: Make free throws in these final minutes.
2:40: Taylor misses two free throws. Sigh.
2:21: Ogilvy with a steal and breakaway. A hard foul barely prevents him from an "and-one."
2:20: Ogilvy misses a pair of free throws.
1:50: Tinsley with a huge save of a loose ball before it goes out of bounds at the Bama end. Good hustle is bailing out Vandy for the time being.
1:11: Huge offensive rebound to maintain a slight edge. That was Darshawn McClellan with the incredibly important play on the glass. More elbow grease is holding off the Bama charge in the final moments of regulation.
0:43: Oh, McClellan with ANOTHER great offensive board, but instead of kicking the ball out and resetting, the forward tries to muscle past the tall timber and work for a layup. Bad move. A miss gives the Tide plenty of time to set up a play. Had McClellan reset the ball, the Tide would have had just a few seconds (maybe).
0:18.8: Brock was ALL ALONE for three and the lead, but he barely drew iron. Vandy lucks out. It's now a free throw shooting contest. VU at the foul line tonight? 10-of-20. Yikes. Someone has to grow some ice veins in the next few moments.
0:17.4: Beal's the man. What will he do?
0:16: Two for two at the line, bay-bee! Four-point lead!
0:9.6: Ogilvy had a loose ball, but lost it. Bama still with a pulse.
0:6.8: Coach Pearson has a point from the Bama bench. Ogilvy blocked that shot, but the ref awarded the ball to Vandy. Nevertheless, solid Commodore defense created a rushed shot. Even if the Tide did get the ball back at this late stage, they probably wouldn't have had enough time for two possessions.
0:02: It's all over now. Definitely not enough time for the Tide.
0:00: Ogilvy did most of the heavy lifting tonight, but when this game became a frenzied, open-court affair, the combination of Beal and Tinsley made the biggest plays by saving turnovers and knocking down a few foul shots. The Commodores didn't handle Bama's up-tempo adjustments as well as they would have liked, but all in all, a team that lost most of an 11-point lead did well to regroup and ultimately prevail. The SEC East is a lot tougher than the West, so a sweep of the Alabama schools should do a lot to establish Vandy as a middle-tier team in the conference. Fears of being a Dore-mat in the SEC have now been banished from Memorial Gym.
Final score: Vanderbilt 79, Alabama 74.