No. 25 Alabama aims to tidy up defensively vs. Vanderbilt

The penultimate week of the Southeastern Conference regular season will get underway for No. 25 Alabama and Vanderbilt on Tuesday when they square off in Nashville.

The Crimson Tide (17-10, 7-7 SEC) are in a four-way tie for fifth place in the conference with LSU, Florida and South Carolina after squandering a 13-point lead in a 90-81 loss at Kentucky on Saturday. Keon Ellis scored 28 points and Jaden Shackelford added 18 in the setback.

Alabama was let down by its defense, as Kentucky shot 53.2 percent from the field and 64.3 percent from 3-point range.

“We kept telling them through the hot start that our defense wasn’t going to be good enough to win the game,” Crimson Tide head coach Nate Oats said. “And that’s what ended up happening — 1.48 (points per possession) at the end of the game is what we gave up defensively. Our offense was 100 percent good enough to win this game, but we couldn’t get stops when we needed to.”

The defensive challenge will not get any easier for Alabama with the SEC’s leading scorer Scotty Pippen Jr. (19.5 points per game) and Vanderbilt (14-12, 6-8) next on the slate.

The Commodores jumped up to 10th in the conference standings with a 72-67 home win over Texas A&M on Saturday. Pippen scored 24 points for Vanderbilt, which received 62 points from its starting five in the win.

“Great win,” Commodores head coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “That team (Texas A&M) is tough to play, one of the better defensive teams in our league.”

Tuesday is the only scheduled meeting of the season between the teams, and the first since Alabama’s narrow 82-78 win in the matchup last season.

That game featured big scoring nights from two players who figure to do the same on Tuesday. Shackelford scored 27 points in that game for Alabama, while Pippen added 24 for Vanderbilt.

Alabama won 77-62 the last time the teams met…

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