TUSCALOOSA -- For once, Alabama was able to win one of its close games. After dropping some nail biters in non-conference play, the Crimson Tide opened SEC play with a 68-63 victory over Vanderbilt on Tuesday.
After building a 16-point lead, the Crimson Tide allowed the Commodores to chip away, but held on with free throws and clutch baskets down the stretch.
“I’m just proud of myself and of my team,” guard Retin Obasohan said of the win to open league play. “We had an opportunity to play a very tough non-conference schedule and it definitely prepared us going into this SEC season. This is not only a big confidence boost for me, but also everybody else on my team.”
It was a balanced offensive effort for the Tide as four players scored in double figures.
Senior point guard Trevor Releford lead the Tide with 16 points, six assists and three steals. Obasohan and Shannon Hale both had 15 points, while Levi Randolph put in 11.
Obasohan drilled a late three with the shot clock winding down in the final minute to keep the Commodores at bay.
Hale, a freshman, continues to earn more minutes after playing sporadically at the beginning of the season.
“That was extremely big for us. What you saw today is just a glimpse of what he is capable of,” Obasohan said. “Day in, day out in practice, he’s shown what an offensive threat he is, and he just came out and played with confidence today.”
Vanderbilt was without its top scorer Eric McClellan, who did not make the trip.
Alabama capitalized with 17 points off 16 turnovers and only turned it over eight times on the night.
“I really thought the difference in the game was probably the first half pressure of their defense and our turnovers enabled them to get separation before the end of the half,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said.
The Tide used a 18-6 run to close the half and take a 36-26 lead into the break.
“I thought the last four minutes of the (first) half was what we want in terms of style of play and in terms of the energy our guys played with,” Grant said.
The Tide (7-7, 1-0 SEC) will travel to Athens for a matchup with Georgia on Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. Alabama returns home Jan. 15 to host Mississippi State.