Alabama Basketball gritted out a big road win to open conference play, outlasting Vanderbilt 78-75 in Nashville.
It was an ugly game that saw Bama jump out to a big first half lead only to see that lead evaporate.
Guard Mark Sears led the Tide with 21 points, while wing Rylan Griffen added 16 and guard Latrell Wrightsell Jr. contributed 11.
It was the sixth 20-point outing for Sears, who continues to play at a first-team All-SEC level for Bama hoops. Griffen has bounced back strong after a slow start to the 2023-24 season. The sophomore wing scored double-figures just once in his first nine games, but has now hit that threshold in four of the last five. Over that 5-game stretch, he has shot 60 percent from the field, including a blistering 17-20 (85 percent) on two-point field goal attempts.
Similarly, Wrightsell Jr. is gradually getting more comfortable in Tuscaloosa. The transfer guard has averaged 13 points on 11-20 (55 percent) from the three-point line over the past three games. In the previous 11 contests, Wrightsell Jr. averaged just 5.4 points per game.
Despite quiet shooting nights from standout transfer additions Aaron Estrada and Grant Nelson, both players impacted the game. Nelson blocked three shots while Estrada stuffed the stat sheet with team-highs of seven rebounds and six assists.
This Alabama Basketball team has continued to improve, and has shown it can win games in different ways. It is still searching for the toughness that defined last year's squad, but it is one of the most potent offensive juggernauts in the country and has multiple dangerous weapons.
The Crimson Tide will host South Carolina on Tuesday evening before heading to Starkville for another tough road bout against Mississippi State on Saturday night.
The SEC schedule won't be easy, as Alabama will see ranked rivals Auburn, Tennessee, and Kentucky five times in total. It will also see talented but underachieving foes in Arkansas and Texas A&M, as well as South Carolina and the two Mississippi schools, all of whom appear to be on the upswing.
Alabama Basketball certainly has the players to compete in this league, but it will have to continue to mesh and improve as an overall unit.