Alabama at Vanderbilt
Where: Memorial Gymnasium, Nashville, Tenn.
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday
Records: Alabama (10-7, 3-2 SEC), Vanderbilt (8-9, 0-4 SEC)
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 95.3 FM
The loudest cheer in Memorial Gymnasium on Wednesday night, guaranteed, will come when the Vanderbilt Commodores make their first 3-point shot.
That’s not only because good shooting might help Vanderbilt against Alabama in its quest to snap an SEC regular season losing streak that has reached 22 games. There is also a bit of controversy in Nashville after the Commodores missed all 25 of its 3-point shots in a loss to Tennessee last Saturday, breaking a streak of 1,080 games reaching back to the NCAA inception of the 3-point line in 1986. Adding fuel to the fire, first-year head coach Jerry Stackhouse seemed less than pleased that Vandy fans were booing their own players late in the game when they would attempt 2-point shots rather than 3-pointers.
“We didn’t step into our shots with confidence and when we got down to the end of the game we sensed the pressure on the guys from every shot we took,” Stackhouse said in his postgame press conference. “And fans were more concerned about the threes than us really getting baskets.”
“To be honest with you, guys were playing their (butts) off trying to compete but it happens. I felt for those kids because they were out there playing and trying to compete and do things the right way. It just didn’t work out for them. It wasn’t meant to be, and now it’s time to start the real streak we want to end is the losing streak.”
Whether Vanderbilt has a superior shooting night depends at least in part on Alabama’s defense and Crimson Tide head coach Nate Oats said after Tuesday’s practice that he expected Vandy’s offense to bounce back.
“Jerry coming from the NBA, the stuff they run is good,” Oats said. “We’ve already stolen their motion on a couple of things. But they lost the leading scorer in the SEC (Aaron NeSmith, out for the year with a broken foot) so they are having to play with some new guys.
“When you play that many freshmen, where it really affects you is on defense, not offense.”
The numbers bear out Oats’ observation. Despite a woeful Saturday, the Commodore offense still has some scoring potential with guard Saben Lee and wing Scotty Pippen Jr. Defensively, Vanderbilt is last in the SEC in field goal percentage allowed (46.0) and 3-point percentage allowed (34.6).
Alabama, meanwhile, is looking to build on some recent momentum by taking a victory on the road.
“Our only road win has been Samford and we all know that wasn’t really a road game (in Birmingham),” Oats said. “It’s not that we have played bad on the road lately. Our last three road losses were by two (points) at Penn State, a double-overtime game in Florida and a game at Kentucky that we were in until the end.
“We’ve got to be mature enough now to go and finish one out.”
Beetle Bolden, who left the Missouri game with what was called a “back contusion” by UA, returned and played just nine minutes before fouling out, was full speed at Tuesday’s practice, Oats said.
“He has the best Catapult score of anyone on the team on Monday,” Oats said. “I guess only playing nine minutes will do that for you. The back wasn’t bothering him today so I guess the doctors and trainers got that straightened out.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.