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Alabama 68, Vanderbilt 61: Tide takes initial step towards salvaging season

Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

By Chris DePew Staff
Feb. 23, 2019

Alabama scored 24 points off Vanderbilt turnovers and allowed none in return as the Crimson Tide held on for a 68-61 home victory Saturday to snap a three-game losing streak.

What did we learn today?: Bama’s upperclassmen finally heard the alarm bell with time running out on the season. Senior Donta Hall got bullied in the paint at Texas A&M and had been tailing off on his rebounding as February rolled on. Junior Dazon Ingram has been having a career-worst year that bottomed out with eight combined points in the past two games. Both responded Saturday with double-doubles and plenty of high energy as the Crimson Tide led by as many as 22 points. In addition, senior Riley Norris (nine points) and junior Tevin Mack (eight) combined to make five of Alabama’s nine 3-pointers. It wasn’t a perfect effort and there wasn’t much for Bama to prove against the worst Vandy team in living memory. But more than anything Bama needed to show urgency and stop the bleeding and it managed to do both.

What was the best part of the game?: Watching Herbert Jones step up when it was needed most. The Commodores had one good run in them, a 15-0 outburst that cut Bama’s lead down to eight with 5:44 remaining. But Jones answered back with a dunk, a free throw, a steal, a jumper and then another steal to push the game out of reach. Jones did very little before that in his second consecutive game off the bench, but hopefully his closing flurry helps restore some confidence.

Who was the star?: Kira Lewis led all scorers with 19 points but it was Ingram who had the best all-around game. His 13 points were the most he’s had in SEC play this year and the 10 rebounds and six assists were both season-high marks. And for the first time in a month, Ingram avoided both foul trouble and the turnover bug in the same contest.

What were the biggest concerns?: It’s been said before, but John Petty is much too talented to disappear from the score sheet as often as he does. For the second time in four games, Petty was shut out, this time going 0-for-7 from the floor. His six rebounds and three assists are proof that he didn’t tune out like he would have last season, but after nearly two full seasons it’s discouraging that he hasn’t become more than a streak shooter. Whether it is Avery Johnson or someone new in the offseason, a high priority has to be getting him over the psychological hump for good.

Hall had 14 points and 11 rebounds in 35 minutes, but it is less clear than ever what Bama is going to do for post production on nights where he can’t carry that big of a load. Galin Smith and Alex Reese are both apparently deep in Johnson’s doghouse, as neither cracked his shortened rotation for a second consecutive game. It certainly isn’t because Daniel Giddens is lighting it up in his late-season return to action. In just six minutes against Vandy, Giddens managed two fouls, two turnovers and missed his only shot attempt. If he’s the only credible backup in the post, the Tide doesn’t really have one (and is major trouble next season if it can’t sign a replacement for Hall).

What’s next?: In the first of what could be four consecutive make-or-break games to close the regular season, Alabama visits South Carolina Tuesday evening. The 6 p.m. Central tipoff will be on ESPN2.

Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris

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