On the bright side, at least they changed things up a bit. The Crimson Tide finally got away from losing the gut wrenching 1-point games at the last second, and found a new way to collectively break all of our hearts. This time, the Tide had one of the hottest first halves ever in the Anthony Grant era, tallying 38 points and an 11 point lead. Then the wheels fell off of the scooter. The Tide face-planted in front of the Commodores, who responded with, what felt like, a never-ending stream of three-point baskets and handily defeated Alabama.
The game started out sloppily on both sides, as neither team managed to score until Jimmie Taylor hit a shot after four minutes of play. Taylor had what probably the best half of his career: He scored 9 points, tallied a block, a steal, and brought down quite a few rebounds in the first frame. The Tide held a small lead for most of the early first half, but the offense started really firing on all cylinders with about 8 minutes remaining. Alabama hit a flurry of shots from all areas of the court and put up 22 points in those final eight minutes. A Retin Obasohan three-pointer with 17 seconds left in the half gave the Tide a 14-point lead, but Vandy's Wade Balwin countered with his own three-pointer to trim the lead to 11 going into the locker room.
Halftime went okay, as nobody scored and the Tide held a comfortable lead the whole time. Unfortunately, all halftimes lead to a second half.
The next 10 minutes of game time were an unmitigated disaster. The sum of the scoring in the next ten minutes of play consisted of: one Levi Randolph free throw, a Michael Kessens tip-in, and 20 points for Vandy to Alabama's 3. The Tide finally decided to make an attempt at playing basketball again, but Vanderbilt never let them get any closer than four points. The Commodores hit 15 of their last 16 free throws to end the game, and Alabama had no chance to outscore the free throw machine.
After his phenomenal first half, Jimmie Taylor did not score a single point in the second half, and never broke double digits. Guard Retin Obasohan had yet another great game in the place of an injured Ricky Tarrant. Obasohan led the team with 16 points, hit 50% from three-point range and shot 46% overall from the floor. He also added 6 rebounds and a couple of steals.
Seniors Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper were major contributors, as usual. Randolph was second on the team with 13 points and paced the Tide with just 3 assists. Cooper added twelve points of his own.
Riley Norris was a full-time starter this week, and got more minutes of playing time than anyone not named Cooper or Randolph. However, he responded by hitting just 1-of-5 of his three-point attempts, and went 0-for-3 on his other shots from the field. He did assert himself in other areas, leading the team with 10 rebounds while adding a block and a couple of assists.
Michael Kessens, who most assumed would not play, scored 10 points in only 15 minutes of playing time, and added 5 rebounds. Justin Coleman contributed a whopping 0 points. Finally, walk-on senior Dakota Slaughter hit his one and only shot, a three-pointer, in 7 minutes of playing time.
Credit the Commodores for their spectacular second half effort, including Wade Baldwin's 4 out of 5 from three-point range. That does not excuse Alabama only scoring 3 measly points over that same period of time, especially after building a 14-point lead. With a 17-12 record (7-9 SEC,) the Tide is fighting to be a fringe team in the NIT. But, things are not looking too rosy on that front either as the season's end draws near.