Commodores fall to Alabama in tourney opener

March 1, 2017

Box Score l SEC Tournament Central l SEC Tourney Bracket l Cleaning the Glass: Zac Ellis

GREENVILLE, S.C. — The 3-point line and the free throw line have been productive spots for the Vanderbilt women throughout the season. But Wednesday was a different story.

Playing in the SEC Tournament’s opening game, the No. 13-seeded Commodores endured a cold-shooting performance and suffered a 77-57 loss to No. 12-seeded Alabama at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C.

Rachel Bell came off the bench to score a career-high 31 points for Vanderbilt (14-16), but she was the only Commodore to find a rhythm, accounting for 12 of Vanderbilt’s 23 field goals. Senior Marqu’es Webb finished with four points and a team-high 11 rebounds in her final game for Vanderbilt, and fellow senior Minta Spears had seven points and four rebounds.

Shaquera Wade scored 21 points and Hannah Cook added 15 for the Tide (18-12), who advanced to play No. 5-seeded Tennessee on Thursday.

Wade’s performance was highlighted by a buzzer-beater from near midcourt at the end the first half, and the shot enabled the Tide to carry a 42-30 lead into the locker room. Alabama then opened the third quarter with a 6-0 run to push the lead to 48-30, and the Tide maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way.

Vanderbilt came into the day ranked No. 3 in the country in 3-point accuracy at 39.1 percent. But the Commodores made just 3-of-16 attempts (18.8 percent), including 2-of-12 in the second half.

Vanderbilt also struggled at the foul line, making only 8-of-16 attempts. During the regular season, the Commodores converted an average of 15.8 free throws per game, and they led the SEC — and ranked sixth in the nation — in total free throws made (459).

Bell was the bright spot for the Commodores. The junior guard went 12-of-20 from the floor, while the rest of the team went just 11-of-41 (26.8).

After a tough start that saw Vanderbilt fall behind 16-6 in the first quarter, the Commodores climbed back into the game in the second quarter and trimmed Alabama’s lead to 26-21 after a layup by Bell with 6:42 remaining before halftime. But the Tide closed the half with a 16-9 run — which was capped by Wade’s long-range buzzer-beater — to build their 42-30 lead.

Vanderbilt was still within striking distance, trailing 52-40, after Bell made 1-of-2 free throws with 2:28 remaining in the third quarter. But Alabama ripped off an 8-0 run over the next two minutes to extend the lead to 60-40, and Vanderbilt never trimmed the deficit to less than 18 the rest of the way.

Vanderbilt’s five freshmen — who played a key role for the Commodores throughout head coach Stephanie White’s first season — were limited to a combined 15 points in the loss.