There’s always the SEC Tournament.
For better or worse.
What hope that holds after a home loss to a team that has already locked up the No. 14 seed in that 14-team event remains to be seen.
That’s the situation for Alabama’s men’s basketball team after a deflating 87-79 loss to Vanderbilt at Coleman Coliseum on Tuesday. The Crimson Tide had only three productive players on offense — Kira Lewis, Jaden Shackelford and Beetle Bolden scored 72 of Alabama’s 79 points — and fewer than three who played well on defense. Vanderbilt shot 56 percent for the game, including 54 percent from 3-point range, and Commodore guard Saben Lee poured in 38 points, the most allowed to any individual by UA this season.
“That probably buries our (NCAA) hopes,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “We’d have to win the SEC Tournament to get in. We knew that coming in and our effort didn’t show it.
“We’re good enough to be beating teams above us but not good enough to beat teams below us. That’s energy and effort. That’s on me. We talk about max effort and then we didn’t give it.
“When the other team plays harder than you, that’s when I can’t sleep at night.”
Alabama played without John Petty (arm), which affected both the Crimson Tide offense and the defensive matchups, although Oats said it should not have affected the inadequate effort level.
The win did have extra meaning for Vanderbilt who will return home to a tornado-stricken Nashville after spending Monday night in Tuscaloosa.
“That was a big-time win,” said Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse. “If there was ever an opportunity to get a big win for our city, this was it. There is so much despair in our city. We still don’t know what we are going home to. But I am proud of a super effort from our kids.”
The victory was Vanderbilt’s first SEC road win since March 3, 2018, and their second league victory this season.
Alabama stayed near the lead or slightly ahead for the first 12 minutes, thanks largely to Bolden’s shooting. But the Commodores outscored UA 20-8 over the final eight minutes and led 42-35 at intermission.
Vanderbilt (10-20, 2-15 SEC) pushed that lead to as many as 10 points, 54-44, before Lewis and Shackelford led a rally that had Alabama up 68-65 with 9:25 to play. But Vanderbilt regained the lead and coasted to the road victory.
Lewis led Alabama with 30 points while Bolden added 24. The Crimson Tide (16-14, 8-9 SEC) will close the SEC regular season at Missouri on Saturday.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @cecilhurt