Alabama at Vanderbilt
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. CT
Where: Memorial Coliseum, Nashville, Tenn.
Records: Alabama (15-8, 5-4 SEC) Vanderbilt (9-13, 0-9 SEC)
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 95.3 FM
The Tower of London. The Lizzie Borden House. The catacombs of Rome.
All are creepy. All are scary. But none have been a chamber of horrors for Alabama men’s basketball like Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, where the Crimson Tide ventures once more to face the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday night.
Alabama has won just once at Vanderbilt since 1990, a 1-13 stretch of misery that includes only a 2013 victory to mitigate the mortification. Last season, Alabama trailed by 10 points at halftime, rallied with a strong pressure defense in the closing minutes but ended up one point short, 76-75.
“We can’t come out and sleepwalk through the first 10 minutes,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “We did that last year. It’s on me to have our team ready to play.”
Vanderbilt is 0-9 in the SEC after the first half of the conference season, although the Commodores have come close against No. 1 Tennessee (a game that went to overtime in Nashville) and others.
“When you look at the close games, you see it,” Johnson said. “I watched the Tennessee-Vanderbilt game. That’s a winnable game for Vanderbilt. I watched the Arkansas-Vanderbilt game on Tuesday night (a 69-66 Vandy loss in Fayetteville in which the Commodores had two-point lead with 40 seconds to play.) I didn’t see a team that’s 0-9 or whatever. I saw a very capable team.
“Coach (Bryce) Drew, when he assembled this team, thought he was going to have one of the best players in America (freshman Darius Garland) but he injured his knee and is now out preparing for the NBA. But they still have good players.
“Sabin Lee gave us problems last year (when he scored 23 points) …we couldn’t guard him. This year, they can put four or five 3-point shooters on the floor which we struggle to guard. So this isn’t coach-speak or me setting us up. It’s the truth. They are a very capable team.”
Sophomore center Galin Smith, who suffered a concussion during the first half of the Crimson Tide’s win over Georgia on Wednesday, remained in the concussion protocol on Friday and will be a game-time decision against Vanderbilt, Johnson said.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.