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Game Recap: Vanderbilt 71 Alabama 63

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Tide has now lost 13 of its last 14 in Memorial Gym

Shannon Hale was a bright spot for the Tide on Saturday
Shannon Hale was a bright spot for the Tide on Saturday
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

There are three certainties in this life: death, taxes, and Alabama losing in Memorial Gym. The Tide have made significant strides so far in year one of the Avery Johnson era but not enough to win in a building that has seen Alabama now drop 13 of its last 14 games there. This game shouldn't be all that concerning for Alabama fans, in fact we were the better team in most areas of the game but free throws and 3 point shooting would make all the difference in this one.

Saturday's game would start the same way that Wednesday's blowout win over South Carolina did, with Riley Norris sinking a 3. The stage was immediately set for Norris to once again continue his transformation into the second coming of Larry Bird but unfortunately the sophomore would come back down to Earth (2/5 FG 6 PTS) and the Tide would have to look elsewhere for point production. In the first half that production would come from juniors Jimmie Taylor and Shannon Hale. Alabama made it an early priority to get Taylor as many low post touches as possible and he would reward them by going 4/5 from the field for 8 points while also making several nice passes out of double teams down low. Offense isn't all Taylor would provide in the first half, though, as he would keep the 'Dores star big man Damian Jones from making a field goal in the first twenty minutes.

However, the most encouraging thing for Tide fans in the first half had to be the reemergence of Hale's offensive rhythm. For this team to be all it can be Alabama needs Shannon to be the dynamic scorer (whether off the bench or in the starting lineup) that he has shown he is capable of being during his time at the Capstone. In the first frame, he was just that, tallying a team high 11 points. The Tide would go to the locker room feeling good and only down two but it would prove to be unsustainable going forward.

Had this game been played before the three point line was brought into the game of basketball we might would be celebrating a win in literally the most unlikeliest of places. Unfortunately that line, along with the free throw line would be Vanderbilt's saving grace. Alabama was the better team inside the perimeter, outscoring Vandy in the paint by 20 points. Even more surprising, the Crimson Tide was the better team on the boards. But it would become the first loss of the Avery Johnson era when the Tide out-rebounds the opponent because they couldn't make free throws and the Commodores could. Additionally, Alabama couldn't make timely 3's and once again, the Commodores could. Ultimately this is a game that comes down to makes and misses. Alabama missed 13 of their 20 free throws, Vanderbilt made 22 of their 36. Alabama missed 13 of their 15 3-pointers before Arthur Edwards last minute barrage when the game was over. Vanderbilt made 9 of 16 when the game was still in doubt. Couple that with Shannon Hale and Jimmie Taylor combining for two points in the second half and there's your ball game.

Now Alabama sits at 1-3 in conference play but you can begin to see the end of an absolutely brutal slate of games to open the SEC schedule. In the upcoming week they have two winnable games, one at Auburn, one at home against LSU. If the Tide can maintain their effort on the boards and defensive end and pair that with a little bit of luck at the lines, we could be looking at .500 this time next week.

Up Next: at Auburn, SEC Network, 8:00 p.m. CT.