Early on, it looked as though Vanderbilt’s brutal nonconference performance would carry on into its first game of SEC play. A 14-0 Alabama run midway through the first half gave the Tide a 33-15 lead, and while things didn’t look as dire as they did when Alabama beat the Commodores 101-44 last season — well, things looked pretty bad.
Vanderbilt would respond with a 9-0 run and whittled Alabama’s lead down to 40-36 at halftime. The key: Vanderbilt committed just two turnovers in the first half, allowing them to hang around with a hot-shooting Crimson Tide squad.
The Commodores needed to keep pace early in the second half to keep the pressure on Alabama, and after a slow start Tyrin Lawrence got fouled while sinking a jumper with 15:25 left. Lawrence sank the free throw to cut the Alabama lead to 47-41.
Things looked like they were going to slip away from the Commodores for the next few minutes, but the game never got completely out of hand — though Vanderbilt never really threatened to win it late. The Commodores did pull to within five on a Jason Rivera-Torres turnaround jumper with a little over a minute left, but the Commodores couldn’t get a stop when they needed one. Alabama did give Vanderbilt a shot in the final minute by missing a bunch of free throws and the Commodores had the ball down three with seven seconds left… and then they fouled like a bunch of cowards. Tyrin Lawrence made the first free throw and Vanderbilt couldn’t come up with a rebound, and Alabama survived 78-75.
Tyrin Lawrence and Jason Rivera-Torres each scored 20 points, a new career high for Rivera-Torres. Ezra Manjon scored 16 points but left the game with eight minutes to play after limping off the floor to the locker room. No other Commodore had more than six points.
Vanderbilt is now 5-9 on the season and 0-1 in the SEC. The Commodores travel to LSU on Tuesday night.