Alabama leans heavily on guard trio in loss to Vanderbilt


CW / Hannah Saad

Alexander Plant | @aplant6, Copy Editor

Without junior guard John Petty Jr., senior James “Beetle” Bolden made his third start of the season on senior night for Alabama men’s basketball. Bolden hit four of his first five 3-pointers to start the game, but couldn’t finish strong enough to grasp a last-minute comeback as Alabama lost to Vanderbilt 87-79.

Nearly the entire offense went through the guards in both halves. Bolden, freshman Jaden Shackelford and sophomore Kira Lewis Jr. combined for 72 of the 79 total points for Alabama.

Bolden, who played a season-high 39 minutes, finished with a season-high 24 points, 21 of which came from his seven 3-pointers. He hadn’t made more than three attempts from beyond the arc since Nov. 29.

“For these games you gotta come through with max effort,” Bolden said. “That’s all I was thinking about, to be honest: Just going out there and giving it my all and leaving it out there on the floor.”

Lewis scored 30 points, his third game this season of 30-plus points, on 10-of-20 shooting. He also had eight assists. Shackelford scored 18 points for the third time in the last four games.

A lack of shooting consistency from the rest of the team caused the team to slump when the ball was out of the trio of starting guards’ hands. Junior forward Alex Reese shot 1 for 9 from the field with all nine shots coming from beyond the arc, and the rest of the team attempted three shots, making two.

“We really need [Reese] to start playing better on offense for us,” coach Nate Oats said.

Late in the game, Alabama struggled on the defensive end, allowing Vanderbilt to shoot 62.5% from the field during the second half. Ball screen defense became a large part of the Crimson Tide’s struggles, as Vanderbilt guard Saben Lee scored a career-high 38 points. Of those 38 points, 9 came from three 3-point shots in the last five minutes to shut out Alabama’s comeback effort.

“The best way to guard a ball screen is to switch it,” Oats said. “You don’t give up a roll, you don’t give up a three.”

Oats acknowledged that the Crimson Tide’s NCAA Tournament chances took a big hit after the loss. The Crimson Tide will almost certainly have to win the SEC Tournament next week to earn a bid.

Oats’ frustration after the game came from the lack of effort from the team as a whole.

“[I’m] frustrated as a guy who’s responsible for this whole program. I obviously didn’t do a good enough job getting these guys ready to play,” Oats said. “We’ve shown these [lack of effort] tendencies before here. You look at the Texas A&M game; I didn’t think our effort was great there. … We’re capable of beating teams and then we’re capable of losing to Vanderbilt who’s worse.”

The first road win all season for Vanderbilt came at a dark time in Nashville. The team had traveled to Tuscaloosa prior to the tornado that struck Nashville and surrounding counties on March 3. As of Tuesday night, the death toll had risen to 25.

“[Tonight’s win] was bittersweet,” Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “Obviously there’s a lot of despair and disappointment back at home, but here we feel good about what we’re ready to do. Our guys have continued to fight through a tough season, through a lot of adversity and [I’m] just super proud of these kids.”