The Crimson White

Chasing a Streak

Layton Dudley

The men's basketball team will host Vanderbilt on Saturday. CW | Layton Dudley

Sean Landry

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This weekend, when the Alabama basketball team hosts Vanderbilt (13-10) it will have its best chance since the start of conference play to do something it hasn’t done in over a month: win back to back games.

Since beating Tennessee Jan. 10, Alabama has been unable to string together a pair of wins, winning just three out of nine games, including a three game losing streak at South Carolina, Kentucky and Arkansas. On Valentine’s Day, Alabama, fresh off a 55-51 win over Mississippi State, will host a Commodores team ranked 103rd in RPI.

“There was a lot of adversity for us in the game,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said after Tuesday’s win. “In the first half we really struggled from an offensive standpoint. In the second half the zone cost us some problems but I’m really proud of how our guys rallied around each other and they understood that this was going to be a 40 minute game. We were more than capable of making plays to get the win. We had some guys that really stepped up today coming into the game. 

“We didn’t know if we would have Mike Kessens available because of an ankle injury but he ended up really stepping up and he gave us some big-time minutes. Rodney Cooper woke up with flu-like symptoms this morning but he ended up giving us 34 minutes today and gave us that three that helped stretch our lead. We made plays offensive and defensively. It was a great team win – one that we needed. With seven games left it gave us some momentum going into our next game and we’re just very happy to get that win.”

Alabama weathered a late rally from the Bulldogs to hold onto Saturday’s win, doing so without some of its top players. Junior guards Ricky Tarrant (leg injury) and Retin Obasohan (hand infection) were both unavailable for the game, while forward Mike Kessens was limited with an ankle injury, playing only 19 minutes. At the time of publication, Tarrant and Obasohan were both doubtful for Saturday’s game.

The Crimson Tide showcased one of the positive hallmarks of the Grant era in its win Tuesday night, holding the Bulldogs to only 51 points on the night and 21 points in the first half. Alabama will need to showcase that defensive fortitude again when it takes on Vanderbilt, the fifth-best scoring offense in the conference, averaging 69.5 points per game.

“What we try to do is have a variety of things that we can do from a defensive standpoint and I think we full court pressed today and we played zone and did a lot of different things today,” Grant said. “They hurt us in some things, they had some success against the press scoring-wise.”

Alabama will be matched up against one of the worst defenses in the conference by defensive efficiency, with Vanderbilt conceding roughly 97 points per 100 possessions and 103 points per 100 possessions away from home. The Commodores play an aggressive defensive style, but if Alabama can break its press, it will be well-poised to score.

“We just have to move around and find open gaps to get the ball inside,” forward Shannon Hale said. “I think we have been playing good. I have confidence to just go out there and play.”

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