Basketball: Five things to know about Alabama at Vanderbilt

The Crimson Tide hits the road in a crucial matchup against the Commodores

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Alabama men’s basketball squad will face the Vanderbilt Commodores on the road Saturday.

Coming off of a much-needed home win against Georgia, the Crimson Tide (14-8, 5-4 SEC) will play the first matchup of a crucial two-game road swing. This will be the last time that Alabama has two-consecutive road games during the 2019 regular season.

While Vanderbilt (9-13, 0-9) does not have the prettiest of records, the Commodores have historically been a thorn in the Crimson Tide’s side, especially when playing in Nashville. Since 1990, Vanderbilt has won 14 out of the 15 matchups against Alabama in Memorial Gym.

“[Vanderbilt] is more than capable,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “They have some young guys that are capable, but another really good 3-point shooting team. A team that can put four or five 3-point shooters out on the court at the same time, which we’ve struggled to guard.”

“We’ve gotta be ready to play.”

Part of Vanderbilt’s struggles can be contributed to losing freshman point guard Darius Garland to injury during just the fifth game of the season. Garland, a phenom in high school, suffered a meniscus injury and just recently declared for the 2019 NBA Draft.

A road win at this stage of the year is crucial for the Crimson Tide. It has the same SEC record as a year ago, when Alabama needed every win to pad its resume and narrowly make the NCAA Tournament field.

Alabama vs Vanderbilt is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. CT tip (SEC Network). Here’s five things to know:

1] All tied up: The Crimson Tide and the Commodores will meet for the 139th time in the history of the two programs. The two schools are tied with each other in wins, each registering 69 victories over the other.

2] 70 is the magic number: When scoring 70 points or more, Alabama is 14-3 this season. However, when scoring 69 points or less, the Crimson Tide is 0-5. Alabama will have to start strong and maintain a balanced offense if it wants to avoid that mark falling to 0-6.

3] Not a good track record of late: In the last 10 matchups against Vanderbilt, Alabama has seven losses. Some more numbers: The Commodores are shooting 44.2 percent from the floor, 33.7 percent from 3-point range and 68.4 percent from the free-thrown line.

4] Simi-Pro: Vanderbilt freshman forward Simisola Shittu is having a fantastic season, averaging 12 points per game. Shittu also leads the team in rebounds with 7.1, which tops all active freshman in the SEC.

5] Down but not out: Alabama sophomore forward Galin Smith is still in concussion protocol after leaving the game against Georgia on Wednesday. Smith has played in 21 games for the Crimson Tide, with seven starts. According to Johnson, Smith will be a game-time decision Saturday night.

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