NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Jordan Wright beat his man from the dribble, skied to the edge before the assist defender got into position and threw a soft layup on the backboard as Vanderbilt needed a tying shot against the No. 24 Alabama. But the ball took two rebounds off the rim and fell seconds from the end, sending the Commodores to a 74-72 loss that ended their hopes of winning an NCAA Tournament general bid.
Vanderbilt led for most of the first half, but squandered their advantage in the second period as Alabama pulled off two separate 9-0 runs. Alabama Guard Jahvon Quinerly broke out of a season-long slump from 3-point range to score 19 points on a 3-on-3 shot from deep, and Scotty Pippen Jr.The 26 points were not enough. Pippen brought Vanderbilt back into the game late on foul after foul once Alabama pushed their lead into double digits, but he didn’t have a chance to tie the shot on final possession.
Liam Robbin added 16 points for the ‘Dores but did not underplay the stretch. The notoriously high and low Crimson Tide shot just 28.6% from 3-point range – Vanderbilt, however, only converted 12 of 32 attempts from 2-point range against defensively challenged Tide despite the size advantage significance of the hosts. Continuing a recent trend, Vanderbilt’s bench struggled and gave up the lead after halftime.
A 9-0 run in the opening minutes of the game gave Vanderbilt a lead to work with for most of the first half. Alabama made its share of plays, but the Tide continually dribbled through traffic, threw the ball or forced odd shots that provided the Commodores with quick-breaking opportunities. While not known for his high-tension transition offense, Vanderbilt created runaway 3-point open runs in one of his faster-paced conference games.
Robbins pulverized the smallest Tide once big man Charles Bediako left the game with two fouls and Drew Weikert came off the bench late in the first half to bury a 3-pointer before knocking down a pair of free throws. Those foul shots gave the Commodores nine points, but Alabama cut the hosts’ lead to 37-32 at halftime.
The Tide responded by sending a second defender to Pippen on perimeter ball screens, forcing the All-SEC guard to dribble to drag the extra man with him before throwing passes to teammates. Vanderbilt’s offense stalled relatively, while Quinerly started bombing away from deep and set up his teammates for easy buckets with several no-look passes.
Nine straight points by Alabama just after the second half midpoint against an all-bench roster gave the Tide a lead, and another 9-0 run a few minutes later opened up a lead of 11 points resulting in a transition lay-up by Quinerly. Pippen and the ‘Dores fought back late as the star keeper ducked his head and headed to the rim to whistle, but Vanderbilt never tied the late game.