Alabama held off the Vanderbilt Commodores late on Saturday, securing a 78-75 win in their SEC opener.
The Crimson Tide dominated the first half, but costly turnovers helped to keep the Commodores around, making the second half more uncomfortable than Alabama wanted.
While it may not have been the dominating performance Alabama sought, the Crimson Tide successfully averted a potentially disastrous beginning to SEC play by securing a close victory against Vanderbilt.
Here are a few takeaways from the SEC opener.
Turnovers Kept Game Close
Alabama was able to lead by as many as 18 points at one point during the first half, but the Vanderbilt defensive pressure was able to force turnovers and trim the lead to just four points by halftime. Vanderbilt forced 16 turnovers by the Crimson Tide, which led to 15 points from the Commodore offense and kept the game within striking distance for the full 40 minutes.
Sears Surges Late
The SEC’s leading scorer, Mark Sears, had a tough first half, scoring just seven first-half points. It wasn’t until seven minutes left in the game that Sears got hot and took over the game. Sears scored Alabama’s next nine points all by himself. He finished with 21 points, which was helped by the absence of Vanderbilt guard Ezra Manjon after he had to leave the game with an ankle injury.
Rylan Griffen Steps Up
Alabama didn't get its typical scoring output from its top three contributors for most of the game. Sears took his time to find his rhythm, and both Aaron Estrada and Grant Nelson were limited to just 14 combined points on Saturday. Alabama turned to Rylan Griffen to provide scoring assistance. Griffen extended his impressive streak, reaching double figures for the third consecutive time with a total of 16 points, accompanied by four rebounds and an assist.
Big Bench Contribution
To complement the big performance from Griffen, Alabama’s bench contributed 27 points on Saturday. Seven players off the Crimson Tide bench chipped in at least five points, led by Latrell Wrightsell, Jr. Wrightsell appears to be finding increased comfort within Oats' offensive system, as he led the Crimson Tide off the bench with 11 points, along with one rebound and an assist.
Alabama returns to Tuscaloosa on Tuesday, January 9, to host South Carolina at 6 p.m. CT. SEC Network will carry the broadcast.
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