Photo by Lexi Hall from The Crimson White
By Austin Rader
The Alabama Crimson Tide welcomed unranked Vanderbilt Saturday afternoon to Coleman Coliseum on Senior Day. In a grind-it-out type of game, Alabama got one step closer to their first SEC regular season championship since 2002. Alabama played their brand of basketball with good ball movement and getting good looks at the rim but just couldn’t knock down their shots most of the game. They looked antsy on the defensive end trying to make a play on every possession.
The Crimson Tide welcomed Jordan Bruner back into the lineup for the first time since he injured his knee against Kentucky over a month ago. Senior walk-on Tyler Barnes got his first collegiate start. The #1 conference in “pace of play” proved that yesterday with both teams playing fast. The pace of this game was similar to a video game with a lot of shots taken early in the shot clock for both teams.
The Tide were biting on ball fakes more than usual and didn’t look as sharp as they normally do defensively, but they got stops when they needed to, forcing turnovers in the second half and rebounded at a high level. The offense moved the ball well all game but just couldn’t hit their shots. The Tide shot 10 of 39 from beyond the arc (25.6%). But good teams find a way to win even when their shots aren’t falling, and the Crimson Tide did just that. Keon Ellis had a big steal and a block mid-way through the second half during Alabama’s second half run that at one point had a double-digit lead.
But Vanderbilt wouldn’t go away. Just when it seemed the Crimson Tide were running away with it, they would come right back. Vanderbilt’s guards Scottie Pippen Jr. and Maxwell Evans combined for 42 points. Dylan Disu notched a quiet double-double for the Commodores. Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse had his team ready for this game. Scottie Pippen Jr. did a great job creating space and getting open looks for him and his teammates. Maxwell Evans shot the ball well making 4 of 5 from three (80%).
Jahvon Quinerly has been a spark plug off the bench scoring the ball. He finished with 15 points and 3 of 6 from beyond the arc. But the man of the hour was Jaden Shackelford. The sophomore from California was not shooting the ball well outside the three point line (just 1 of 9). But he continually found ways to score in the paint especially on the fast break. The left hander is sensational at scoring when driving to his left, no matter how many defenders are on him. He finished with a game high 27 points. Another guy for the Tide that quietly had a big game was Alex Reese. He finished with the best +/- for Bama and had a big dunk early in the second half. Reese finished with 10 points.
Alabama doesn’t have a top 15 scorer in points in the SEC yet the Tide average the 3rd-most points in the SEC. This team is as deep as they come, and deep teams tend to make a deep run when March comes around. “We’ve got to make shots, I mean if we’re going to take 39 threes we have to get back in the gym and start making some threes,” Coach Oats said when asked about the poor shooting performance from beyond the arc.
The Tide travels to Fayetteville, Arkansas to face the Razorbacks in a highly anticipated clash between the top 2 teams in the SEC. Arkansas is riding a 7-game SEC winning streak. Alabama rolled right through them the last time they met in Tuscaloosa beating them 90-59. “They’re the second best team in the league today and if we play like we played today, they would probably be the better team. We have our hands full on Wednesday. We did not play well defensively today,” coach Oats said. With a win the Crimson Tide can all but clinch the SEC regular season. The game tips off at 8:00 pm central time on Wednesday night.