Mark Sears helps Alabama pick up road win at Vanderbilt

Dec 20, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nate Oats signals to his team during the first half of the game against the Arizona Wildcats in the Hall of Fame Series at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Led by Mark Sears’ 21 points, Alabama got a 78-75 win at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn., on Saturday in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

The Crimson Tide (9-5, 1-0) shot 40 percent from 3 with seven players each making at least one. Rylan Griffen scored 16 and Latrell Wrightsell Jr. had 11.

Tyrin Lawrence and Jason Rivera-Torres each scored 20 for Vanderbilt (5-9, 0-1), with Rivera-Torres’s total being a career high.

Ezra Manjon, Vanderbilt’s leading scorer, scored 16. But Manjon came down awkwardly on his left ankle with 7:51 left while being fouled. He hit the ensuing free throws but checked out and didn’t return.

Vanderbilt got within three on a Rivera-Torres layup with 10 seconds left.

Alabama’s Griffen missed a free throw and the Crimson Tide fouled Lawrence with 4.7 seconds left.

Lawrence hit the first free throw, Griffen rebounded and the Commodores failed to foul until 1.1 seconds remained. Griffen hit the first of two free throws to account for the final points.

The Commodores led 8-7 early but never led again.

Sears ball-faked a defender and hit a step-back 3, giving Alabama its second double-digit lead of the second half (54-43) with 12:40 remaining.

Vanderbilt hung tight with Lawrence getting a steal and then a corner 3 to keep Vanderbilt within six.

But Sears answered with a 3 off a screen on Alabama’s next trip and hit a contested left-handed layup through a double-team after a Vanderbilt miss.

Rivera-Torres hit a turnaround baseline jumper with 1:18 left on an isolation play, setting up a close finish.

The Crimson Tide hit six of their first eight from 3 and went up 33-15 with 10:08 left in the first half thanks to a 14-0 run (and an 11-0 edge in fast-break points) that the Commodores finally snapped on a Jordan Williams 3 with 9:40 left in the half.

Alabama, though, cooled off. The Crimson Tide had eight turnovers to Vanderbilt’s two at half, and failed to score the last 4:40 as its lead shrunk to 40-36.

–Field Level Media

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