NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Alabama men’s basketball team has had a long history of suffering at Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym and no one has endured more of it than Riley Norris.
So, on Saturday night, he ended the misery.
Norris hit three critical free throws and followed it with the decisive 3-pointer as the Crimson Tide held off a furious Vanderbilt rally to take a 77-67 victory over the Commodores, the first UA win on Vanderbilt’s campus since 2013.
“Riley Norris was huge tonight,” Alabama head coach Avery Johnson. “We haven’t had any success in this building, so we are happy to win whether it’s one point or 10 points.
“Our ball movement was good. We shot the ball well. I don’t remember a team of mine shooting 12 of 24 from the 3-point line. We played well for long stretches, then we went into our Harlem Globetrotters routine and turned the ball over. But I was proud of our guys for the way we regrouped in the last four minutes.”
Said Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew, “I think you take Riley Norris as a great example. He’s probably one of the least athletic guys on the floor and he gets 12 rebounds. That’s just getting position and fighting for the ball. We’ve got to do that instead of getting outrebounded (42-31) like that.”
Alabama went ahead 65-47 on a John Petty 3-pointer with 8:50 to play, but turned the ball over on three of its next four possessions, triggering a lengthy drought and a 13-0 Vanderbilt run. The Commodores got as close as five points, 65-60, but hit a scoring skid of their own.
Norris was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 2:13 remaining, hit all three free throws. Saben Lee hit two free throws on Vanderbilt’s next possession, but Norris answered with a 3-pointer to put UA up 71-62. The Crimson Tide made six of its eight free throws in the final 85 seconds to keep the Commodores at bay.
Alabama led by as many as 11 points and held a 38-31 lead at halftime. Kira Lewis has 13 of his 18 points in the first half.
Lee scored 24 points for Vanderbilt (9-14, 0-10 SEC).
The Crimson Tide played without two inside players on Saturday. Galin Smith, who suffered a concussion in Alabama’s win against Georgia on Wednesday, was not cleared to participate. Sophomore forward Alex Reese was sidelined with what Johnson called “flu-like symptoms.” Both will be re-evaluated before Tuesday night’s game at Mississippi State.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.