TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP)Saben Lee and Vanderbilt ended a day of heartache back home in Nashville with something to celebrate on a basketball court four hours away.
Lee scored a career-high 38 points, including 15 over the final five-plus minutes to lead Vanderbilt to an 87-79 upset of Alabama on Tuesday night. It came after a day of following the news from back in Tennessee, where at least 24 people were killed after tornadoes struck Nashville and other parts of the state.
”I think if there was ever an opportunity to get a big win for our city it was today,” Vandy coach Jerry Stackhouse said. ”What happened over the last 24 hours in Nashville, our hearts go out to all the families that were affected.
”We still don’t know what we’re going back home to tonight. But for a little while we can have a moment of feeling good about our city and about ourselves.”
Lee made 6 of 7 3-pointers for the Commodores (10-20, 2-15 Southeastern Conference), who snapped a seven-game losing streak.
Lee made three 3-pointers, scored on a couple of drives and hit two free throws over the final 5:12 to carry Vandy past the Crimson Tide (16-14- 8-9). The loss to the SEC’s last-place team was likely a fatal blow to Alabama’s already shaky NCAA Tournament hopes barring a huge run at the league tournament.
”It probably buries our tournament chances, which we kind of knew,” Tide coach Nate Oats said. ”Barring us winning the SEC Tournament, we’re probably not going to play in it.”
Lee caught fire after going a combined 8-of-30 shooting for 24 points over the previous two games. He made 14 of 20 shots and also had eight rebounds and five assists.
Lee said he felt in a rhythm after making an opening floater, and he scored the Commodores’ first seven points. It ended a tough day off the court.
”It was definitely a shocker and a sad surprise waking up,” Lee said. ”You just see reality and just see it’s bigger than basketball and just see things that are going on from a different perspective.”
Dylan Disu made four 3s and scored 14 for the Commodores, who also got 13 from Scotty Pippen Jr.
Alabama got virtually all of its scoring from three players.
Kira Lewis Jr. had 30 points and eight assists. Beetle Bolden made seven 3-pointers and scored 24. Jaden Shackelford scored all 18 of his points in the first eight minutes of the second half.
The rest of the team made 1 of 12 field-goal attempts for seven collective points.
Alabama did erase a 10-point second-half deficit to take the lead before Lee took over.
Vanderbilt made 15 of 28 3-pointers (53.6%) and shot 30 of 54 overall (55.6%). The 15 3s matched the season high set against SMU and Richmond.
Alabama’s Lewis joined James ”Hollywood” Robinson as the only Tide players to reach 1,000 points in just two seasons. … The Tide made 12 of 36 3-pointers (33.3%). … It’s the second game without injured No. 2 scorer John Petty (elbow).
The only player Alabama had to honor on senior night was Bolden, a West Virginia graduate transfer. He played in 82 games before transferring but delivered a big finale in his final regular-season game at Coleman Coliseum.
”It’s one of those games where you’ve got to give max effort,” Bolden said. ”That’s all I was thinking about.”
Vanderbilt’s finale for Stackhouse’s first regular season is home Saturday against South Carolina.
Alabama closes the regular season Saturday afternoon at Missouri.
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