The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

No. 4 Alabama overwhelms Robbins-less Commodores, 78-66

Despite a late rally, Vanderbilt struggled without star big man Liam Robbins on Tuesday night and never really threatened No. 4 Alabama.
Miguel Beristain
Quentin Millora-Brown goes up for a block against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Tuesday January, 17 at Memorial Gymnasium (Miguel Beristain/Hustler Multimedia).

Vanderbilt started off behind the eight-ball on Tuesday night and that was even before the ball was tipped: News broke about an hour prior to game time that star center Liam Robbins would miss the game and would be sidelined 4-6 weeks with a sprained ankle. 

Without Robbins, Vanderbilt (9-9, 2-3) led just once and never really threatened, falling 78-66 against No. 4 Alabama (16-2, 6-0). The Commodores failed to capitalize on the momentum built from their win over No. 25 Arkansas on Saturday as the Crimson Tide remained perfect in league play, avenging last year’s SEC Tournament loss.

“At the end of the day they were better than us tonight,” Jerry Stackhouse said after the loss. “Brandon Miller had a big performance for them. It was a little difficult tonight without Liam [Robbins]…not having that option tonight made it some tough sledding for us tonight.”

The Commodores opened the contest in a similarly dreary fashion, starting the game 1-for-10 from the field as Alabama built a 13-3 lead just over five minutes in. Vanderbilt came roaring back in the next four minutes to cut the deficit to 15-13, as the first half featured a battle of runs from each side. 

The Crimson Tide responded with back-to-back buckets from star freshman forward Brandon Miller, who finished with 12 points in the opening frame, to take a 19-13 advantage. Not to be outshined, Vanderbilt’s freshmen duo of Lee Dort and Malik Dia ignited an 8-2 Commodore run to produce a 22-21 lead. The one-point margin represented Vanderbilt’s lead of the night over the Crimson Tide. 

“It’s great experience for him [Lee]. I thought Malik came out and gave us some good minutes offensively,” Stackhouse said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to grow up fast over these next couple of weeks.”

Things would quickly dry up on the offensive end as Vanderbilt managed just four more points across the final eight minutes of the half. The Tide took the upper hand quickly following the Commodores’ offensive ineptitude, pushing out to a 32-22 before a Dort layup stopped the bleeding. The two teams traded a pair of baskets as Alabama took a 36-26 into the locker room. Jordan Wright led the way with 6 points for the Commodores, with Dort and Dia notching 5 apiece. 

Despite a 20-minute halftime breather, Vanderbilt’s second-half shooting fared far worse than it had in the first half: The Commodores scored just four points total in the first seven minutes out of the locker room. 

While Vanderbilt slumped its way through the half’s opening portion, the Crimson Tide built a 53-30 edge behind some more Brandon Miller fireworks. The 53-30 deficit marked the first time all season an opponent gained a 20-point lead over the Commodores as Alabama took advantage of Vanderbilt’s horrendous early shooting. 

Finally, Wright knocked in a 3-point shot to get Vanderbilt off the schneide. That sparked a mini 9-0 run for the Commodores to bring the game back to a respectable 53-39 margin. The teams traded baskets over the next four minutes in what turned into a defensive slog both ways in the second half.

Miller continued to give Vanderbilt problems from all-three levels scoring seven straight points for the Crimson Tide as they maintained a double-digit advantage. Tyrin Lawrence countered with his best Scotty Pippen Jr. impression, hitting a two-point jumper and getting to the line twice to score six straight points and bring Vanderbilt within 13 points, 62-49. 

The Commodores rallied late to get within single digits, going on an 11-6 run to make the score 68-60 with 1:11 left in the contest. After a defensive stop, Wright quickly drove the rim to bring the deficit to 68-62 with just over 40 seconds left. The Commodores fouled Miller on the inbounds, who calmly sank two free throws to push Alabama’s lead back to eight points, 70-62. An offensive foul on Myles Stute sent the Crimson Tide back to the free-throw line on the ensuing possession, where Noah Gurley knocked down two more free throws.

Two free throws from Lawrence (20 points) and four free throws from Miller (30 points, 10 rebounds) extended the Alabama lead to 76-66 before Gurley finished things off with a slam dunk to give the Crimson Tide a 78-66 win over the Commodores. Vanderbilt shot 22-for-73 (30.1%) from the field and 6-of-33 from deep (18.2%) for the game. 

Vanderbilt will be back in action on Saturday afternoon when they take on the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens, Georgia on Saturday, Jan. 21, at 12 p.m. CST. 

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About the Contributors
Bryce Smith, Former Sports Editor
Bryce Smith ('23) is majoring in human and organizational development in Peabody College with a minor in business. Bryce previously wrote for SBNation before joining The Hustler. Hailing from Chicago, Bryce is a die-hard Bears and Cubs fan who is also hoping that the Bulls and Blackhawks may one day rekindle their dominance. He can be reached at [email protected].    
Miguel Beristain, Senior Staff Photographer
Miguel Beristain (’24) is a philosophy and cellular and molecular biology double major in the College of Arts and Science from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. When not shooting for The Hustler, he can usually be found playing Magic the Gathering, exploring new restaurants or practicing guitar. He can be reached at .
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