Alabama was able to bounce back after its most lopsided loss of the season. Now the Crimson Tide will try to end 17 years of futility in Nashville when they face Vanderbilt in an SEC matchup Wednesday night.
The No. 10 Tide (14-2, 1-1) had a six-game win streak snapped Jan. 6 with an 88-61 defeat at Arkansas, but responded with a 71-61 victory over No. 13 LSU three days later.
Richard Hendrix scored 18 points and Jermareo Davidson added 12 and 12 rebounds for Alabama, which held the Tigers to 36 percent shooting (25-of-70).
“I’m really proud of our guys, because I think after we had our slice of humble pie it would have been easy to pout and mope and get down a little bit,” Tide coach Mark Gottfried said. “And they didn’t.”
Returning to Tuscaloosa also helped Alabama, which has suffered both of its losses this season on the road. The victory over LSU extended the Tide’s home win streak to 16, including 9-0 this season.
Vanderbilt (11-6, 1-2) has not been an easy matchup over the years for Alabama.
The Tide had lost four straight to the Commodores before a 77-74 overtime win last season, and have dropped eight in a row at Memorial Coliseum in Nashville since a 65-56 victory on Feb. 2, 1990.
“We have a big challenge, obviously,” Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. “Vanderbilt is a very good team, and it’s a tough place to play. We know that. And I think the way that they are playing this year with the four perimeter players—they are really trying to stretch the floor out.”
Both teams feature a balanced attack, as each Alabama starter averages double digits in points, while four Vanderbilt starters are averaging in double figures.
While Alabama is very formidable up front with Hendrix, Davidson and Alonzo Gee, Vanderbilt only starts one true forward in 6-foot-9 Ross Neltner.
The Tide, fourth in SEC in rebounding margin at plus-7.9, have a clear advantage up front over the Commodores, who rank 11th in rebounding margin and 12th in blocks.
This figured to be a big season for Alabama point guard Ronald Steele, a preseason All-American, but a right knee injury has clearly affected his play. Steele is averaging 10.5 points, 4.6 assists and 1.6 rebounds per game after averaging 14.3, 4.3 and 3.7, respectively, in 2005-06.
“That’s the million-dollar question, when’s he going to feel better?” Gottfried said last week. “It’s frustrating him.”
Vanderbilt was unable to build on last Wednesday’s last-second win over then-No. 16 Tennessee, falling 85-73 at Georgia on Saturday.
Coach Kevin Stallings wasn’t pleased that the Bulldogs shot 55.2 percent from the field, including 57.7 percent while outscoring the Commodores 45-34 in the second half.
“I thought the story of the game was that we did not defend well,” Stallings said. “Our post defense was atrocious. You also do not expect opposing players who average three points to get 10.”
Derrick Byars led Vanderbilt with 23 points and fellow senior Dan Cage added 17.
Byars, the team leader with 15.1 points per game, has 48 points on 18-of-32 shooting in the past two games after totaling only 11 on 4-of-12 in the previous two contests.
The Commodores have won two straight against ranked teams since dropping the season opener to then-No. 8 Georgetown.