By Chris DePew
Jan. 7, 2017
Alabama iced down hot-shooting Vanderbilt on Saturday, holding the Commodores to just 14 points over the final 15 minutes to rally for an improbable 59-56 victory at Coleman Coliseum.
What did we learn today?: How razor-thin the margin for error is for the Crimson Tide. Alabama grabbed 50 rebounds (20 of them offensive), committed only 13 fouls and 11 turnovers, shot twice as many free throws, saw Vanderbilt star Matthew Fisher-Davis limited by back trouble – and was lucky to escape with a win. Bama had its worst shooting night of the season (20-for-63) at 31.7 percent and its most consistent scorers disappeared after halftime. Dazon Ingram, Braxton Key and Avery Johnson Jr. combined for just five points and one field goal in the second half. Alabama’s starters shot 8-for-32 from the field and were outscored by their own bench 36-23.
What was the best part of the game?: The continued improvement in the rebounding department. This is the area where the Tide has grown the most under Avery Johnson and it isn’t just the centers cleaning up on the glass. Key had 11 boards and Ingram added 10, while Jimmie Taylor and Bola Olaniyan not only grabbed eight rebounds apiece but combined for 17 points. Alabama ended up with 18 second-chance points and outrebounded Vandy by 15.
Who was the star?: Ar’Mond Davis went from not playing at all against Mississippi State and in the first half against Vandy to saving the day after the Commodores raced out to a 14-point lead. After a couple of ugly misses, he began the scoring barrage with a 4-point play, added another 3-pointer that hit the lip of the rim and bounced straight up before dropping, threw in a transition layup and capped it with a banked-in corner trey to tie the game at 49-49 with 8:46 remaining. All 12 of his points came in less than five minutes and he never had an assist or rebound, but he provided the adrenaline shot when Alabama needed it most.
What were the biggest concerns?: The first five minutes after halftime were easily the worst basketball Alabama has played at home all year. Vanderbilt made four 3-pointers to break open a tie game while Bama started 0-for-8 from the floor with three turnovers. The offense was disorganized and consisted mainly of wild 3-point attempts that barely grazed the rim. Nobody in crimson looks well versed in how to consistently set up and sink good shots, and if there isn’t a coach on staff who can teach that skill successfully, frankly one needs to be found before next year’s star recruiting class goes to waste. Donta Hall continued the disturbing trend of Bama big men disappearing once they crack the starting lineup. He had no points and two rebounds in just eight minutes. Johnson also fell off the map after two early baskets, finishing with six points but no rebounds or assists.
What’s next?: Alabama steps up in class when No. 24 Florida visits Tuesday night for an 8 p.m. tipoff on ESPNU.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris
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