Alabama wins 1st game at Vanderbilt in 23 years

  Rod Odom (0) scrambes for a loose ball during the second half of Vanderbilt's Game against Alabama in Memorial Gym on February 2, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — An 11-game losing streak that spanned 23 years crumbled Saturday.

The Alabama men’s basketball team had not won in Memorial Gymnasium since 1990, but the Crimson Tide fought hard and fought back to defeat the Vanderbilt Commodores.

The Tide’s victory at Vanderbilt was the first since Wimp Sanderson led his team to a 65-56 win on Feb. 3, 1990.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our team,” head coach Anthony Grant said. “This was a big road win for us. We all know the history of this series. The University of Alabama’s last win here was in 1990, and we’re happy for our team and our players, as well as all the players that came before these guys. I’m not trying to over-dramatize it, but it was important to us to come in here and play well today.”

It was more than a win for Alabama. It showed the Tide had the ability to fight through adversity and road struggles.

Vanderbilt shot 57.9 percent (11-19) from the field and 71.4 percent (5-7) from behind the arc in the first half. The Commodores were more than on fire and every time Alabama made a run, Vanderbilt hit a timely three.

Vanderbilt (8-12, 2-6 SEC) led by as many as 11 points, 51-40, with 7:10 remaining. But Alabama went on a 16-4 run, taking its first lead of the contest when Trevor Lacey hit a three point shot with 58 seconds left to make the score 56-54. Lacey finished with 17 points, including nine in the last five minutes.

Alabama closed the game on an 18-3 run over the final seven minutes and made clutch free throws to seal the deal.

"I thought the fight in the second half; the resiliency was awesome,” Grant said. “Andrew Steele, our senior, did a tremendous job throughout the game, keeping our guys focused and motivated and on-task in terms of what we needed to do. We always talk about it being a 40-minute game that we have to play, stay the course and play all the way through.”

Steele, a fifth-year senior who had lost here twice, carried Alabama offensively along with Lacey. Steele made three clutch three pointers to keep Alabama close and fuel the Tide’s second half run. But his biggest contribution came during every huddle.

“I tried to tell them to keep fighting,” Steele, who scored a season-high 13 points, said. “At every media timeout, we had cut the lead by a certain margin. I just kept reminding them, ‘Just chip away, chip away.’ We kept chipping away. … I had full confidence that we would win the game. I didn’t know how it would come about, but not for one second did our team stop believing that we would get the win.”

The Crimson Tide (14-7, 6-2 SEC), will next be in action Feb. 6 when it travels to take on the Auburn Tigers. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. and will be televised on the SEC Network.

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