Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Alabama squeaks past Vanderbilt to open conference play 

Courtesy of UA Athletics
Alabama Forward Grant Nelson (2) shoots a free throw against Vanderbilt at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, TN on Saturday, Jan 6, 2024.

After going 8-5 to start the regular season, Alabama Crimson Tide’s men basketball opened SEC play with a 78-75 win at Vanderbilt on Saturday.  

Alabama, which entered the contest as the No. 1 offense in the country, according to KenPom, continued to show that it has a multitude of weapons at its disposal in the first half. 

Guard Latrell Wrightsell Jr. picked up where he left off against Liberty, scoring 11 first-half points on 3-5 shooting from beyond the arc. However, he went scoreless in the second half. 

Guard Rylan Griffen also helped lead the offensive charge in the first half for the Crimson Tide, scoring 11 of his 16 points before the break.  

It was a close contest for much of the first half, until Alabama’s 14-2 tear toward the middle of the half. The Crimson Tide led by as many as 18 during the half. Vanderbilt finished the half on a 21-7 run, however, cutting down the Alabama lead to just 4 as the score stood 40-36 going into the break.  

“I didn’t think we did a great job of closing either half,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said postgame. “We didn’t score in almost the last five minutes of the first half.”  

Alabama was able to hold back the Commodores for much of the second half. As soon as Vanderbilt built some momentum, the Crimson Tide would make a play to extend the lead. 

Guard Mark Sears had a stellar second half to keep the Commodores at bay. He scored 14 of his 21 points in the half, some of which were put in with style. He finished with four rebounds and three assists, but also led the Crimson Tide in turnovers with six.  

“I’m just trying to come in and lead us to wins,” Sears said postgame.  

Vanderbilt had its own second-half heroics, however, as freshman guard Jason Rivera-Torres came alive for the Commodores. He scored 17 of his 20 in the second half, going 7-9 from the field. The Bronx native didn’t shy away from his first SEC matchup, single-handedly willing his squad back into the game.  

As Sears and Rivera-Torres went back and forth, it appeared the Crimson Tide would run the clock down to a win in Nashville. Alabama possessed a 7-point lead with just over 30 seconds left in regulation. 

However, a series of missed Alabama free throws and quick baskets from the Commodores put the Crimson Tide victory in jeopardy as the clock approached zero.  

Vanderbilt cut the lead to just 2 with five seconds on the clock, but Alabama put the game on ice from the free-throw line to emerge with a 3-point victory. 

“As a team, we’ve got to be better on Tuesday, but a road win is a road win in the SEC and we’ll take one today,” Oats said.  

Alabama now looks ahead to a home matchup with the South Carolina Gamecocks, who have won six games in a row and hold the best record in the SEC at 13-1. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network on Tuesday at 6 p.m. 

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