Alabama played its sloppiest game in months but took advantage of 10 3-pointers and a woefully outmatched Vanderbilt roster to pull out a 77-62 road victory.
What did we learn today?: All it takes is a little loss of focus for a lot of the ugliness from November to come rushing back in like a bad dream. Some of Bama’s unfocused play is naturally intertwined with facing the SEC’s worst team in an empty, lifeless arena. But at the same time, the Crimson Tide would have gotten run out of the building if it turned the ball over 25 times against any other league opponent. Alabama played hard (witness its 51 total rebounds) but never in sync for long. When it wasn’t throwing the ball away it was blowing chances at the foul line (19-for-29) or enduring multiple scoring droughts because it stopped passing crisply (only 12 assists on 24 field goals). This was the second game in a row the Tide won by double digits but let a clearly inferior team hand around far too long because of its own mistakes. Once SEC play resumes next week with a trip to LSU, there are far fewer opportunities to survive a letdown game in the weeks ahead.
What was the best part of the game?: Once Bama decided to lock in and show what it could do, the Crimson Tide needed only 2:24 to kill off Vandy’s upset hopes. A 14-0 run early in the second half that featured a pair of Beetle Bolden 3s turned a four-point game into a blowout. Bama built the lead up as high as 20 points and never let it drop below 11 the rest of the night. Kira Lewis added a trey of his own during that sequence and finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Who was the star?: At times in the first half, Vanderbilt appeared to be going off a John Petty scouting report from 2017. The Commodores kept leaving him open for spot-up 3-pointers and he gleefully took advantage, sinking five in the first half. He finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds, yet another in a string of double-doubles that his him in contention for league player of the year.
What were the biggest concerns?: The staggering turnover tally figured to be what kept Nate Oats tossing and turning all night, but things took a far more serious turn when reserve center Javian Davis fell to the floor not long after appearing to twist his knee. A Thursday morning MRI will reveal how serious an injury it is, but any missing manpower is something Bama can ill afford right now, especially in the already decimated frontcourt. Davis has struggled to adjust to SEC play but had quietly grabbed seven rebounds in 12 minutes at Vandy. If Davis is out, that puts more pressure on Alex Reese and an already foul-prone Herbert Jones.
What’s next?: Bama goes for a season-high fourth straight win Saturday against Kansas State in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Tipoff from Coleman Coliseum is set for 5 p.m. Central on ESPN2.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris