The excitement in Nashville on Tuesday night was undeniable.
Warming up wiped away a few tears in the pre-game shootaround on an intense night for the No. 4 Alabama basketball team. His 78-66 victory over Vanderbilt came just three days after former teammate Darius Miles was indicted on a mentally-challenging serial-killing charge.
The Crimson Tide’s seventh straight win didn’t come particularly close until the final minute. Alabama’s 23-point lead slipped to 68-62 with less than a minute left before the Tide pulled away from the foul line one last time.
Alabama (16-2, 6-0 SEC) scored a game-best 30 off freshman star Brandon Miller in the homecoming game of the Nashville area product. The forward added his 10th rebound in the second half of a double-double on a night when he made 10 of 16 shots.
Despite being hours from home, the quirky Memorial Gymnasium on the Vanderbilt University campus had a crimson presence. The crowd was in party mode when Miller’s three made him 53-30 with 12:44 remaining, but Vanderbilt’s frigid shot thawed for a while. Commodore He Tylin He Lawrence, he scored 17 of 20 after halftime, but the Commodores didn’t come close to more than six in the final minute.
It wasn’t enough to break Alabama’s winning streak of seven straight opponents under 70 points.
Vanderbilt went 9-9, 2-3 in the SEC, beating No. 15 Arkansas four days later on the same floor.
Alabama came out fast and sprinted to a 13-3 lead as the hosts missed 12 of their first 13 shots. The Tide was working inside as Vanderbilt was playing without his 7-foot top his scorer and rim protector Liam his Robins. Without a leader blocking shots, Alabama edged the Commodores 20-8 in the pre-halftime paint and 40-26 in the game.
Miller had scored 5 of the first 9 and 12 of 36 by halftime as he played on the edge. Twice in the first half, he said something to the Commodore bench after making shots at the rim when three of Alabama’s first six baskets hit dunks.
As the Tide shifted its focus to the surroundings, Vanderbilt counterattacked. After scoring his shots on his two outsides in the first, Alabama missed his next eight shots as the Commodores took a 22–21 lead from him on a Malicdia 3-pointer.
In the 10-0 game against Alabama that followed, Vanderbilt went cold again, taking only 2-of-12 shots. With his margin at halftime at 36-26, the Commodores’ shooting percentage was just 25.6%.
This post will be updated.
Michael Casagrande is a reporter for Alabama Media Group. follow him on twitter @ByCasagrande or Facebook.