TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The Crimson Tide lost its rhythm, lost its focus and, in the end, lost its second straight SEC game Thursday night, falling to Vanderbilt 69-59.
To make matters worse, Alabama (13-5, 2-2) had a handful of players go down to injury. Andrew Steele and Nick Jacobs went to the bench early with injuries, not to return. Power forward JaMychal Green missed time as well, marking the second game in a row that the senior had to visit with the training staff.
Player of the game: Trevor Lacey put in a solid all-around performance for the Tide, leading the team with 14 points and six steals while putting in a team-high 33 minutes.
What we learned: Alabama can’t continue to lose the free throw battle and expect to win. Vanderbilt committed 11 fewer fouls and attempted 14 more free throws than the Tide, sinking 21 of 29. All told, that 14-point differential was the difference in the game.
Turning point: With 12:03 to go in the second half and Alabama trailing by 16 points, coach Anthony Grant had seen enough. Fed up with what he perceived as missed calls from the referees, he received a technical foul. The coaching staff had to restrain its irate coach after the technical was called, painting the final stroke on the Tide’s mental lapse at home.
Key stat: Alabama is not built for the comeback. With the loss, the Tide fell to 1-5 when trailing at the half. The only win came at VCU when UA trailed by just one at the midway point on Nov. 27. UA has won every game it has led at half.
Quote of the game: "When you’re not having offensive success it can cause frustration and things to break down. Vanderbilt took advantage of those opportunities," Grant said.
What’s next: Alabama will travel to Lexington, Ky., to take on the No. 2-ranked Wildcats on Saturday.
What to look for: Grant and Co. can’t afford to play as recklessly against Kentucky as they did against Vanderbilt. In front of a hostile environment, the Tide run the risk of becoming further unhinged.