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Alabama Basketball’s NCAA Tournament Chances went out the ‘Dore with Loss to Vanderbilt

Final Score: 87-79

NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Oh no.

Alabama was in a position where winning out left them with a slim chance to make the NCAA tournament. Losing, though? That’s gone. Throw in the fact that it was a loss to a team that had only won one SEC game in the last two season, and Alabama’s dreams of glory ended about as painlessly as sticking your finger in a door hinge.

Or maybe a ‘Dore hinge?

Sorry. I already used that pun in the title. I’m distraught.

Anyway, Vanderbilt started hot, with 20th year senior Saben Lee scoring back to back shots in what was an omen for the rest of the game. Alex Reese returned the favor with a three-pointer, which was most definitely not an omen for the rest of the night for him.

Senior Beetle Bolden got as hot as a worm on asphalt in an Alabama summer, making four three pointers in the span of five minutes to give the Tide a rather comfortable lead throughout a good portion of the first half. While Bolden was busy raining threes like a plague of beetles, Kira Lewis was doing a lot of work under and around the basket to keep the Alabama offense humming. The two scored 30 of Alabama’s 35 first half points (Reese’s initial three pointer was the only non-free throw by someone other than those two).

Meanwhile, Vanderbilt’s Saben Lee just couldn’t miss. He scored 18 points by himself, including going 100% from behind the three point arc.

The second half started just as poorly for the Tide as the Commodores hit back-to-back three pointers to open the half. Alabama didn’t quit, though, and Jaden Shackelford, who didn’t score a single time in the first half, rattled off 18 points in the first 8 minutes to finally get the lead back for the Tide.

After that, though, it all fell apart. Kira Lewis continued to increase his point total, but it took some major efforts under the basket and making mid-range jumpers by himself to do so. Meanwhile, Vandy just. kept. making. threes.

Or, more precisely, Saben Lee did. And while the career 30% three-point shooter was busy making 86% on this night, Alabama closed out the game missing 10 of their last 11 shots and not scoring anything other than a few free throws for over 6 minutes until Lewis hit a useless three pointer in the final minute.

There’s a lot of things you could try to look at, stats-wise, to try and explain this game. And most don’t make sense. Alabama had less turnovers, more offensive rebounds (equal overall rebounds), more free throws, and more shot attempts than the Commodores.

But, efficiency is king. Vandy hit 54% of their three point shots, and 55% overall. Alabama shot 33% and 43%, respectively.

Sometimes, the other team just gets hot. Now, obviously, that’s not totally a luck thing. Alabama’s defense was getting carved up all night and seemed to be a step behind no matter what happened. But even when they were in place, Lee was making a deep three-pointer with a man right in his face.

On the other hand, Vanderbilt was determined to cut off the baseline pass after a drive that Coach Oats’ offense loves so much. And once Alabama realized the threes weren’t falling like they hoped, the offense quickly devolved into a one-man hero attempt by Kira or Shack to drive straight into the defense and go for a pull-up jumper. Which rarely worked.

Lewis and Bolden both played 39 minutes, and Lewis led with 30 points and 8 assists. Bolden had 24 points and, stunningly, only one foul. Shackelford had 18 points (all of which came in that 8-minute span), and nobody else on the team had more than 3 points. This team misses John Petty like a really good dog whose humans are out on vacation.

Well, barring a miraculous run in the SEC tournament, Alabama will be heading to the NIT again this year. Hopefully, a little time for Herb Jones to get his hand working again and John Petty back on the court will give the Tide the juice they need to not pull another one-and-done stunt like the one that got Coach Avery Johnson fired last year.