Trevor Releford led four 'Bama players in double figures with 16 points in Tuesday nights victory over Vanderbilt 68-63. Shannon Hale and Retin Obasohan both scored 15, and Levi Randolph contributed 11 for the Tide. Releford added six assists and three steals, with only one turnover in 38 minutes of action. Carl Engstrom, Randolph and Obasohan lead the team in rebounds with four each.
After a slow start, 'Bama turned up the heat late in the first half on the Commodores with full court pressure, and forced 10 turnovers to take a 36-26 point half time lead. Releford was brilliant with 14 points, four assists and three steals in 19 minutes. Hale scored nine in the first half. Vanderbilt was playing with out their leading scorer, point guard Eric McClellan, who did not make the trip for undisclosed reasons.
After intermission the Tide came out clicking on all cylinders and raced out to a 50-34 lead with 13 minutes remaining, before hitting their customary cold streak. Behind strong defense, rebounding, and the three point shooting of 6 foot 9 big man Rod Odum, Vandy cut the lead to 61-56 with just four minutes remaining . Odum ended the game with 20 points and 10 rebounds, hitting 5 of 7 three point shots.
Sealing the victory for the Tide, Obasohan hit two big three pointers in the final minutes, ending any hope of a Vandy comeback and yet again a 'Bama collapse down the stretch.
Unlike in previous games this season, 'Bama was finally able to make the plays necessary to win a close game. Alabama forced 16 turnovers by Vandy, and only committed eight of their own, while compiling 13 assists. Per usual the team was out rebounded, 32-25. 'Bama shot 48% for the game, 37.5% from three point range, and 63.2% from the free throw line. Vandy shot 45% for the game, 46% from three and, despite being last in the league at 63%, hit 88% from free throw line.
'Bama looked its best when playing fast and loose, forcing turnovers and scoring off of the press. Once the scoring drought kicked in, ball movement ceased to exist and the team was unable to press, thus allowing Vanderbilt to close the gap, making a run-away game a tightly contested one.
With the win 'Bama evened their overall record at 7-7, while Vanderbilt fell to 8-5 on the year, 0-1 in league play.
Releford said of the win:
"It is great to get off to a good start in conference play, we are starting to play with more confidence, and know what it takes to win. I feel like we can still have a succesfull season, and reach many of our goals"
Next up the Tide takes to the road, playing at Georgia Saturday at 3 p.m. The game will be televised on your local SEC TV affiliate. A road win, and a 2-0 start could propel the team to a big conference year.
Roll Tide Y'all