Even with the recent history of blown second-half leads, Kevin Stallings didn’t expect the worst.
Unfortunately for the Vanderbilt coach, his players were not so sure-minded Saturday.
The Commodores led by 11 with more than seven minutes left but lost 58-54 to Alabama in front of a crowd of 12,345 at Memorial Gymnasium.
“I thought we were going to win. The problem is I think I am the only one that does,” Stallings said. “That’s the problem – I’m the only one who thinks we’re going to win and we’re supposed to win. We have guys that play not to lose.”
Alabama closed the game on an 18-3 run and did not allow Vanderbilt to make a field goal attempt in the last 7:10. Trevor Lacey’s 3-pointer with 58 seconds left gave the Tide their first lead, 56-54. Vanderbilt’s Josh Henderson had a layup blocked and Kyle Fuller’s potential game-tying 3-point attempt missed the mark with 16 seconds left.
It marked the third time this season the Commodores (8-12, 2-6 Southeastern Conference) have lost after holding a lead of nine points or more in the second half.
“We strung together – once again – a whole bunch of losing plays,” guard Kedren Johnson said. “We made a lot of bad decisions, took some questionable shots and it came back to bite us.”
Fuller’s career-high fourth 3-pointer gave Vanderbilt its largest, and what appeared to be a comfortable 51-40 lead.
It turned out to be the Commodores' last basket. They missed their last eight shots and two of three throws, including the front end of a one-and-one, and committed four turnovers.
Alabama (14-7, 6-2) scored 18 points off 17 Vanderbilt turnovers. Johnson and Fuller combined for eight, which overshadowed their scoring efforts.
Johnson scored 12 of his 15 points in the first half and Fuller added 13 off the bench.
Lacey made three 3-pointers and led Alabama, which snapped an 11-game losing streak at Memorial Gymnasium dating back to 1990, with 17 points. Andrew Steele added 13.
The Commodores dropped their third straight and sixth in eight games. They shot 48.7 from the field, 53.3 percent from 3-point range, made eight of 12 from the free-throw line and outrebounded Alabama 31-27.
“There are too many guys who don't want what goes on at the end of the game,” Stallings said. “They’re not ready for it yet apparently. That is disappointing because at this point in your life you should be.”