NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Alabama men's basketball team came up just short at Vanderbilt, 76-75, on Tuesday night in Memorial Gymnasium. Freshman Collin Sexton led all scorers with 24 points, his eighth game of scoring 20 or more, while adding five assists and three steals in the losing effort.
"We started poorly and that's something you can't do in this league on the road," Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said. "Our level of concentration, physicality and attention to detail at the beginning of the game wasn't where it needs to be. We paid the price for it in the first half. In the second half, we struggled at the start and substituted to try and find a team to give us that. We were able to find that group of five to give us a big boost. We had the type of energy that I thought we needed throughout the rest of the game. Our team fought hard to the very end; we got some steals, made the extra pass and finished at the basket. I'm proud of the effort over the last 10 minutes or so on the game, but that's not going to win a game in the SEC."
The Crimson Tide (9-5, 1-1 SEC) trailed by as many as 15 points early in the second half and nearly pulled off an improbable comeback. Trailing 74-65 with 1:41 remaining in the contest, Alabama went on an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 74-73 with 46 seconds left. The Tide forced three straight turnovers in the Vanderbilt backcourt to rally back.
Alabama looked to have forced a fourth consecutive turnover, but after knocking the ball loose, it rolled right to the feet of Vanderbilt forward Djery Baptiste – who hadn't made a field goal all night – and he was able to put away the uncontested layup to give the Commodores a 76-73 lead.
Following a timeout, Sexton cut to the basket for an easy bucket with six seconds left. The Tide was forced to foul with 3.6 seconds remaining but, after Vanderbilt missed the free throw, Sexton's half court heave was off the mark.
Both teams opened play shooting well early on, with Alabama hitting 4-of-6 from the floor and Vandy hitting four of its first seven shots to keep close. The Commodores got hot from beyond the arc that initiated an 11-2 run over a span 4:16 to build a 31-23 advantage with 6:55 left in the half.
The Crimson Tide evened the game at 31 apiece after an 8-0 run of its own over the next 1:32. Vanderbilt responded with four straight field goals – all coming from Saben Lee who outscored Alabama by himself, 12-4, over the final 4:16 of the half for the 43-33 lead at the break.
The Commodores scored the first five points of the second half to lead by its biggest margin, 48-33, before the Tide began its comeback.
Alabama shot 50 percent from the field (26-of-52), including a 57.7 percent effort (15-of-26) from the floor in the second half and held the Commodores to 42.6 percent shooting from the field (23-of-54). The Tide also had a big 42-20 advantage in the paint, however, Vanderbilt did its damage from beyond the arc, knocking down 10 threes (10-of-25) for the game including eight in the opening half.
Alabama junior Donta Hall added 14 points, hitting all six of his shots from the floor, and six rebounds. Sophomore Braxton Key added nine points, six rebounds, 4 steals and three assists, while sophomore Dazon Ingram also had nine points to go along with six boards and a career-best three blocks.
Vanderbilt was led by Lee's 23 points, while Roberson ended the night with 17 points and five rebounds.
Alabama will continue conference play on Saturday, Jan. 6, when it travels to Athens to face the Georgia Bulldogs. Tip-off is set for 11 a.m. CT and the game will be televised on SEC Network.