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Alabama Basketball flashes moments of high pressure defense to win SEC opener

Vandy_UA001_615x340The Alabama men’s basketball team hosted Vanderbilt for their Southeastern Conference opener on a cold Tuesday night in Tuscaloosa.  The Crimson Tide turned up the heat inside Coleman Coliseum midway through the first half but lack of focus allowed the Commodores to make the final minutes of the game more dramatic than Anthony Grant would have liked. But the Tide starters came back into the game with just over four minutes remaining to get their first SEC win of the season 68-63.

The Commodores Rod ODOM led all scorers with 20 total points as well as rebounding with 10 giving him the only double-double for both teams.  Trevor Releford took the top scorer spot for the Crimson Tide with 16, closely followed by Retin Obasohan and freshman Shannon Hale’s career-high 15 points each.VAndyUA_0009

Alabama fell behind at the start of the game, but mid-way through the first half the Tide turned up the pressure on Vanderbilt by forcing turnovers and pushing the ball down the court quickly.  With an exciting few minutes by the Crimson Tide Randolph seals the ball and takes it to the basket for the dunk to give Alabama the lead 18-16 with 7:43 to go in the first half.  The Commodores would match the score and the two teams would trade baskets but Alabama would go into the locker room up by 10 (36-26).

The Crimson Tide was able to force 16 Vanderbilt turnovers and turning those into 17 points.   Alabama had 13 assists on 25 baskets and outscored the Commodores 11-2 in bench points while going 85.7% from the free throw line.

Alabama started out the second half much like the way they finished the first with quick baskets and full court pressure.  The Crimson Tide led by as many as 16 points on several occasions during the first eight minutes of the second half.  But that is when the momentum started to shift and the Commodores started making the game more interesting.

VAndyUA_0002“We had an opportunity to hit first and we kind of startled them with our pressure,” Obasohan said. “In the second half we had a lapse of energy. We weren’t as aggressive as we were in the first half and that gave them an opportunity to get back in the game.”

With 13:27 remaining in the game, Grant pulled Randolph, Hale, Obasohan and center Carl Engstrom from the game to allow the others to get some game-time.  Obasohan then came back in to replace Releford three minutes later.  That mass substitution change proved to be a mistake and Grant took full responsibility stating “The energy we had wasn’t the same,” he said.

Vanderbilt (8-5, 0-1) slowly began eating away at the Alabama lead and went on a 9 – 0 run to cut the score within three with 3:20 to play.  But that was as close as the Commodores would come to evening out the score.  Obasohan made a critical 3-pointer with 1:25 remaining which would provide the needed buffer to stave off the Vanderbilt excitement.

Alabama moves to .500 on the year with a 7-7 record and have shown moments much like that of last six minutes of the first half and the first eight minutes of the second.  But those added together don’t even make a full half.  “I’m happy with the win but at the end of the day it’s about how our team plays. I felt like there’s been games that we’ve lost when I look at it and I say we’re getting better even though we didn’t win. Tonight, I felt like in some areas looking at it live, we may have regressed a little bit.VAndyUA_0008

The Crimson Tide travels to Georgia this Saturday to take on the Georgia Bulldogs. The game is set to tip off at 3 p.m. CT. and will be televised by SEC TV.

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