Alabama holds on to beat Vanderbilt, stop losing streak

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Alabama holds on to beat Vanderbilt, stop losing streak

CW/ Hannah Saad

CW/ Hannah Saad

CW/ Hannah Saad

CW/ Hannah Saad

Ben Stansell, Assistant Sports Editor

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Alabama staved off a late comeback from Vanderbilt to vanquish the Commodores 68-61 in Coleman Coliseum on Saturday night. With the win, the Crimson Tide (16-11, 7-7 SEC) ended its three-game losing streak.

The Crimson Tide was led offensively by Kira Lewis Jr., who had 19 points, just one shy of recording his sixth 20-point game of the season.

Donta Hall set the tone early on defense with a monster block on Vanderbilt’s leading scorer Saben Lee. The rejection went viral almost instantaneously.

“Blocking shots is what I do,” Hall said. “It’s like second nature . . . I knew I had to come out with my defense a little more than it has been the last couple games. I felt like me getting a couple blocks at the beginning of the game was big for us.”

Along with three blocks, Hall finished the game with 14 points and 11 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season.

“On our defense it all starts with him,” Dazon Ingram said. “Whenever he’s able to get blocks like that, it energizes our team.”

While Hall got The Crimson Tide going defensively, its offense was sparked early by sharp three-point shooting from Lewis, Tevin Mack and Riley Norris, who each drilled two shots from beyond the arc in the first half.

“I watched the film from Alabama the last few games, and the same shots that they made tonight are the same shots that they missed the other nights,” Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said. “I know a lot of people put a lot on coaching and different things, but at the end of the day teams who shoot well usually win games. Tonight they came out on fire and made shots.”

Not only was Alabama shooting well, it was also getting scoring in transition with the help of Vanderbilt’s sloppy ball control. The Commodores turned it over 12 times in the first 20 minutes, which led to 18 points for the Crimson Tide on the other end.

Alabama, who ranks last in the SEC with 4.3 steals per game, finished the game with 10 steals, six of which came in the first half.

The Crimson Tide’s defense held the Commodores to single digits until 6:27 left before the break, when a three-pointer lifted them to 12 points.

Alabama carried a 15-point lead into the half. The big lead got even bigger in the second half, ballooning to 22 points as the Crimson Tide continued to knock down shots from outside. Alabama shot 38 percent from three in the win.

The Crimson Tide received scoring contributions from multiple players, but not John Petty Jr. Alabama’s second leading scorer ended the game with zero points. However, Petty didn’t let his poor shooting stop him from impacting the game. He snagged six rebounds and had the highest plus/minus ratio on the team.

“We’ve asked John, if your three is not going, what else can you do to help the team?” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “Last year he probably would have had one rebound. He had six rebounds and his defense was outstanding so that shows the growth and development of his game and he’ll knock down some threes in the next game and hopefully play more of a complete game on the offense and defensive end.”

Alabama’s once sizable lead was cut down late in the second half when Vanderbilt went on an 11-0 run. Instead of allowing the Commodores back into the game, like it has against several opponents this season, Alabama closed the door with strong defense and ball control.

“For our guys, this was a tough spot to be in,” Johnson said. “We dropped a couple of games and everybody knew what the deal was in terms of Vanderbilt’s record. I don’t know if any team had as much pressure on them to win as us, as the Alabama Crimson Tide in the conference under the circumstances and our guys responded.”

Alabama will look to build on its win when it takes on South Carolina on the road Tuesday night at 6 p.m.