Commodores control Tide, 69-59

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Resurgent Vanderbilt put the clamps on Alabama stars Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green with smothering defense and got standard performances from its own top players.

The result was another double-digit win that threatened to get really lopsided. John Jenkins had 20 points and Jeffery Taylor scored 17 to help the Commodores beat the Crimson Tide 69-59 Thursday night for their eighth straight win.

They never let Green (six points) or Mitchell (zero) get going.

Ezeli defense“We came out here and set our minds to playing physical and that was pretty much the key,” said Festus Ezeli, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds.

The Commodores (14-4, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) turned a six-point deficit into a 23-point lead before giving back some of the cushion when the Tide (13-5, 2-2) finally started hitting shots.

Vanderbilt limited Alabama to 23-of-70 shooting for a season-low 32.9 percent.

Jenkins made 4 of 7 3-pointers and also had eight rebounds, scoring his season average. Taylor scored 13 in the second half and also hit right about his average (16.9). Lance Goulbourne finished with 11.

“Our bigs really stepped up and played well,” Vandy coach Kevin Stallings said.

Trevor Releford led Alabama, which had won 10 straight SEC home games, with 14 points and freshman Levi Randolph had 13. Green did have eight rebounds before fouling out in the final seconds.

Mitchell, who came in averaging 14.5 points, missed all eight field goal attempts and was held scoreless for the first time in his career.

“Tony has got to be able to regroup and understand that every player goes through a night where you struggle,” Tide coach Anthony Grant said.

Stallings said the defensive strategy against Green and Mitchell was simple.

“Just keep the ball out of their hands as much as you can and do a good job of contesting their shots,” Stallings said. “As the game went on, those guys never got in sync.”

Neither did the Tide until it was too late.

Releford made his final five shots after a 1-for-11 start and also had six steals. Trevor Lacey added 10 for Alabama.

It was more business as usual for Vandy, which has had only one single-digit victory in a streak that started after falling to 6-4 with a loss to Indiana State. That dropped the preseason No. 7 team from the rankings.

The Tide’s biggest explosion came after Grant had to be restrained following a technical after Alabama briefly cut the deficit to 10 points in the second half.

He continued jawing at the officials, but Jenkins buried two free throws and then made a 3-pointer.

“I don’t even remember the call,” Grant said. “It was probably a build-up of frustration on my part, but I’ve got to make sure I do a better job of talking to officials or dealing with calls.”

Vanderbilt made 21 of 29 free throw attempts while Alabama attempted 10, making seven.

The Commodores trailed by six in the first half before exploding. They started a 30-7 run that extended well into the second half, and Alabama never collected itself.

“What we did tonight, I thought was very impressive,” Stallings said. “We didn’t play the first five minutes of the game very well and we didn’t play the last five of it very well, but I thought the middle 30 we were pretty sharp.”

The Tide missed its final eight shots before halftime. The second half didn’t start out much better.

Taylor made back-to-back 3-pointers and two free throws on consecutive possessions and Vandy surged to a 41-24 lead with 15:58 left.

It ballooned to 58-35 on Jenkins’ 3-pointer, though Alabama managed to pull closer with a late flurry.

The Commodores dominated from the perimeter with an 8-for-18 performance in 3-pointers, and also inside. They outrebounded Alabama 48-35, and Tide big men Green and Nick Jacobs both spent time on the bench with injuries.

Jacobs, who sustained a right ankle injury, played only 8 minutes.

Tide guard Andrew Steele left in the first half and didn’t return. A team spokesman said he was lightheaded and felt OK by the end of the game, which he watched in sweats.

Steele was medically cleared to play on Jan. 2 after initially leaving the team with lingering symptoms resulting from concussions.

“He’s an important part of this team and he would have helped us out a lot in the second half,” Releford said.