No. 4 Alabama looks to maintain its conference lead and extend a six-game winning streak when it ventures north to face Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn., on Tuesday evening.
The Crimson Tide (15-2, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) roll into town having demolished their last six opponents by double digits. Five victories have come by 15 or more, including Saturday’s 106-66 drubbing of LSU in a game where Alabama led 59-22 at the half.
Freshman (and Nashville native) Brandon Miller scored 31 points, outscoring LSU by himself for much of the first half. Mark Sears, Rylan Griffen and Jahvon Quinerly all pitched in 12 points, and Nick Pringle added 10.
“Really, our defense in the first half, our offensive rebounding — a lot of effort stuff — that’s what I was most happy with,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “That’s what we told our guys our focus is gonna be on. The offense will take care of itself. Let’s make sure that we play harder.”
Miller (19.5 points, 8.2 rebounds per game) is one of the leading candidates for SEC Player of the Year. He and Sears (15.2 ppg) are the only two Alabama players with scoring averages in double figures for a squad that averages 84.4 points per game.
LSU learned how tough Alabama can be to guard, as the Tide hit 20 of 54 3-pointers, with eight players hitting at least one.
But Alabama’s defense, which ranks eighth in adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom.com, has perhaps been even better. The Crimson Tide allow opponents to shoot just 37.6 percent from the field and 28.2 percent from long range.
The Commodores (9-8, 2-2) aren’t playing poorly, either. Vanderbilt used a 63-point second half to score a 97-84 home win over No. 15 Arkansas on Saturday.
Tuesday marks Vanderbilt’s fourth straight game against a ranked opponent after the Commodores fell by three at Missouri and by nine at Tennessee coming into the Arkansas win.
Tyrin Lawrence (22 points), Jordan Wright (17), Myles Stute (15), Liam Robbins (14) and Trey Thomas (13) all scored in double figures against Arkansas.
Vanderbilt held on against the Razorbacks despite the ejection of point guard Ezra Manjon and technical fouls to Wright and coach Jerry Stackhouse.
“That was a tough game. That was a hard-fought game. Our guys, they played their butts off. They competed,” Stackhouse said. “That second half, they did exactly what we’ve been talking about: They led by example.”
Vanderbilt also did without Robbins for all but 42 seconds of the first half against Arkansas after he picked up a pair of quick fouls. Vanderbilt’s 7-footer has been one of the conference’s best players when on the floor, leading the Commodores in scoring (13.2 ppg), rebounding (5.9 rpg) and blocks (2.9 per game) in just 22.1 minutes per contest.
Wright (10.7 ppg) is Vanderbilt’s second-leading scorer and appears recovered from back issues that plagued him earlier in the season.
Stute (10.4 ppg) and Lawrence (10.4 ppg) also have scoring averages in double figures, with Stute ranking as one of the SEC’s most dangerous 3-point shooters. He is hitting 42.6 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.
The Crimson Tide have won the last two regular-season meetings between the teams, though Vanderbilt defeated Alabama 82-76 in last season’s SEC tournament, which was the last time the teams played.
–Field Level Media