No. 23 Vandy outlasts Alabama at home
Brad Tinsley sunk his off-balance jumper despite getting fouled and hit the free throw to help seal the victory for No. 23 Vanderbilt.
JaMychal Green thought he got fouled as well seconds later, only to see officials rule the Alabama forward stepped out of bounds trying to drive the baseline and tie up the game.
''It was in the referees' hands,'' Green said. ''I can't do anything about it.''
With Tinsley's three-point play with 17 seconds left, Vanderbilt beat SEC-leading Alabama 81-77 on Thursday night. Alabama coach Anthony Grant said he'd have to check the replay, which he didn't have the benefit of seeing after the game.
''All I know is that a call was made, and we have to respect the call that was made,'' Grant said.
''We're going to go for the best opportunity we have, and we felt like we had a good opportunity there, but it just didn't work out for us.''
Now Vanderbilt (17-6, 5-4) has won the first two games of a three-game homestand, with No. 18 Kentucky visiting Saturday to remain knotted with three others for second in the SEC's Eastern Division. Tinsley's shot came off a screen, and he hit the shot even as Trevor Releford hit his arm.
''It was a big basket in the game, obviously, and just really proud of him,'' Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. ''Proud of him for making that play and having the courage to step up and be there when we needed him, and we did need him.''
Alabama (15-8, 7-2) came in having won five straight and 10 of 11 with the Tide's best start in SEC play since 2001-02. But the Tide hasn't won in Memorial Gym since 1990 and couldn't finish this one off in a game that featured 11 ties and 10 lead changes.
Green had a chance to tie it again as he drove to the basket, only to step up on the end line and turn the ball over with 6.3 seconds left. He thought Festus Ezeli might have fouled him only to see the call go the other way.
''We knew they were going to try to go inside,'' Tinsley said. ''He drove the baseline. I mean, there could've been a lot of calls right there. He just happened to step out of bounds, I guess.''
John Jenkins hit two more free throws with 5.1 seconds remaining to pad Vandy's lead. Charvez Davis' long three over a couple defenders was off target.
Jenkins finished with a team-high 20 points for Vanderbilt. Jeff Taylor had 19 before fouling out with 90 seconds left, Tinsley had 15 and Ezeli had 11. Taylor said it was great to watch his teammates close out a tight game, but difficult to watch from the bench helpless.
''My heart rate was like 140,'' Taylor said. ''Man, I was dying over there. I wanted to be out there so bad. I was so glad. They closed it out, and they came up with some huge plays.''
Green finished with 23 points for Alabama, including shooting 10 of 11 at the line. Tony Mitchell scored 22 points, and Releford had 11 before fouling out late.
The Tide came in with the nation's third-stingiest defense and best in the SEC, holding opponents to 57.1 points per game. Vanderbilt is the SEC's best scoring offense, and the Commodores matched what Alabama had been allowing with less than 12 minutes left.
''We gave them some looks that we knew we couldn't give them,'' Grant said. ''Give them credit. They stepped up, and they made some big shots. They're a very good team, and we knew that coming in. We didn't have enough to win it tonight.''
Alabama dominated inside as the Tide shredded Vanderbilt's defense by going to the basket over and over for dunks and layups. They outscored Vandy in the paint 46-18 and shot a season-high 55.6 percent from the floor (30 of 54).
But Alabama went just 2 of 15 beyond the arc. The Commodores also had a big edge at the free throw line (22 of 27), where they hit eight of nine in the final 2:04 compared to the Tide's 15 of 19.
''We're a really potent offensive team,'' Taylor said. ''We're capable of putting up a lot of points on the board when things are clicking. Shots went in today.''
Vanderbilt never led by more than five in the final 15 minutes. Each time Alabama got the lead, the Tide couldn't push it past a couple points. The Commodores cooled Alabama off a bit by stiffening up their zone, forcing the Tide into a shot-clock violation with 3:15 left.
The Commodores led 42-39 at halftime after leading by as much as 11 twice. Mitchell added a free throw and a jumper off a fast break after a turnover by Tinsley. He hit a big three a couple of seconds before the buzzer to pull Alabama close and celebrated by jumping up and down as he ran to the bench.