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Alabama Basketball breaks the curse in Nashville, defeats Vanderbilt

Final Score: 77-67

NCAA Basketball: Alabama at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Much has been made over the misfortunes of the Tide basketball team in Memorial Gymnasium over the last 28 years. So despite everything in the world pointing to this game being an easy win for the Tide, most of us were quite nervous.

The game started in a fairly back-and-forth manner. Donta Hall and Dazon Ingram both picked up early fouls, and with both Alex Reese and Galin Smith out of the game, the Tide was looking a little thin in the “physical presence” department. Daniel Giddens was given more minutes than he’s had all season, and did his best to establish himself at the post. Kira Lewis kept the Tide offense moving along for much of the first half as the Vandy defense seemed content to condense and double team anybody that got the ball under the basket.

The Commodores are the worst shooting team in the SEC, but were hitting their fair share of three point shots in the first half to keep things even with the Tide. However, at around the 8-minute mark, their poor shooting reared it’s head as the Commodores couldn’t score from the court for over 5 minutes while the Tide continued to pull further into the lead on the backs of a dunk from John Petty and a three-pointer from Donta Hall (and no, I didn’t mix up those two names. Hall actually caught the ball a foot inside the three point line, took a step back, and launched it. It was the first three-point attempt of the senior’s career, and he nailed it).

Vandy did come back into form over the final couple of minutes and managed to cut Alabama’s lead to a 38-31 advantage by halftime, but it just felt like all the voodoo of that gym had finally been shattered with Hall’s glorious three-point shot.

The second half was looking even better for the Tide as Dazon Ingram and Kira Lewis hit back to back three point shots as the Tide raced out to a 14 point lead, then continued to extend it to as high as a 19 point lead with an all-around team effort. Alabama was very clearly outclassing Vandy, and with 9 minutes left, the game was looking as good as over.

That was, until, it wasn’t. On a fast break play after a turnover, Daniel Giddens went up to try and block the shot and missed, and the two players collided as Vandy star Simisola Shittu hit the padded goal post. After about a 72-minute-long review, the officials finally decided that Giddens committed an excessive and unnecessary technical foul.

The long break seemed to totally kill all the Tide’s rhythm and pumped life into the Vanderbilt crowd. John Petty did hit a three pointer to get the Tide to 65, and then Alabama went on the not score for over six minutes. At one point, Alabama had turned the ball over on 8 of their last 11 drives as the Vanderbilt fans went absolutely nuts. The Commodore offense picked things up a little and closed in on the Tide, drawing to within 5 points before their increasingly over-eager and physical defensive strategy messed things up as a defender ran straight through Riley Norris as he attempted a three-point shot. The 11th-year senior made all three of his free throws to finally break the drought with 2:13 to go in the game, then turned around and nailed a three-pointer 20 seconds later.

Norris and Dazon Ingram took turns taking free throws the final few minutes as the Tide put the Commodores away.

Kira Lewis led the team in both points and assists, with 18 and 4, respectively. The announcers gushed his praise all game, and he really did play exceptionally well up until that streak in the final bit of the second half. Two of those turnovers were his, and he started dribbling right into the heart of double teams under the basket.

Riley Norris was next with 15 points, and led the team with 12 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. He was probably the most important player for the Tide all night. With Donta Hall playing limited minutes with foul trouble and the next two big men in line both out for the game, Norris fought all game long to come down with that many rebounds. Going 3/6 on three point shots always helps too.

Dazon Ingram was next with 12 points. He shot 3/3 on three point shots... I don’t know where that came from, but I’ll take it. Herb Jones played well too, gaining 9 points on one of his better shooting nights (66%) and leading the team with 3 offensive rebounds.

John Petty continued to show his more well-rounded game as opposed to the one-dimensional three-point shooter we saw all last year. He worked underneath the basket for most of the game, cutting behind people to get open and passing back out or into the lane and making some difficult passes. He also led the team with 2 steals, and wound up with 8 points.

Alabama out-rebounded Vandy 42-31, shot 50% on 24 three-point shots, and hit 81% of their free throws. If you lose a game with those kind of stats, some really weird stuff went wrong. And it didn’t, because the curse of Memorial Gymnasium was finally shattered. In fact, it was probably Donta Hall’s three-point beauty that did it.

Buckle up, and Roll Tide!