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No. 23 Vandy edges upstart Alabama

Feb 11, 2011 - 6:34 AM Nashville, TN (Sports Network) - Brad Tinsley converted a three-point play with 17 seconds remaining to put Vanderbilt in front, and the 23rd-ranked Commodores held on to down the upstart Alabama Crimson Tide, 81-77.

Tinsley ended with 15 points and six assists, while John Jenkins hit the clinching free throws in the waning seconds as part of a 20-point effort for Vanderbilt (17-6, 5-4 SEC), which improved to 13-1 at home this season.

The Tide (15-8, 7-2) entered Memorial Gym atop the SEC thanks to a 10-1 stretch and nearly left with a memorable win behind JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell. The duo combined for 45 points, but a late turnover from Green proved too much to overcome.

Neither team was able to sustain momentum in the second half, and it was essentially a one-possession game over the final eight minutes.

Jenkins' three-pointer gave the hosts a 69-68 lead with five minutes left, he then added two free throws the next time down.

Steve Tchiengang had a chance to extend the margin a little later, but missed an easy put-in that led to Green's tying three-pointer with 2:19 to go.

It was a free-throw contest over the next minute, with Festus Ezeli making two for a 76-75 Vanderbilt lead with 1:20 remaining. Ezeli blocked Mitchell's attempt at the other end, but a sloppy possession ended in Lance Goulbourne's deep try hitting off the backboard and falling off the rim.

Trevor Releford wasted little time racing down the court for a go-ahead layup with 27 seconds left, only to have Tinsley spot up from 17 feet and knock down a scissor-legged jumper from the right wing while getting fouled.

"We just called a pick-and-roll and I think it was [Ezeli] that set a great screen for me," recalled Tinsley. "I saw the screen which gave me the opportunity to get the guy off of me and I just shot it and it went in."

After the free throw and an Alabama timeout, Green tried driving the baseline but was greeted by Ezeli, who forced Green into losing the ball out of bounds with 6.3 seconds showing.

"I think I was fouled. But it was in the referees hands, I can't do anything about it," Green said.

Jenkins was sent to the line 1.2 seconds later and sank both to secure the tight win.

Jeffery Taylor, who ended with 19 points and eight rebounds before fouling out, scored six straight points late in the first half to help Vanderbilt jump out to a 33-23 lead.

The margin reached 42-31 on two Tinsley free throws, but Alabama went on an 8-0 run over the final two minutes.

Mitchell rattled in a deep three at the buzzer to make it a 42-39 game. It was the first time the Tide trailed at halftime since December 18 at Oklahoma State, a span of 11 games.

Alabama took its first lead of the second half when Mitchell capped an 11-2 spurt with a tomahawk jam for a 56-54 lead with 12:47 to go.

The Commodores turned it over on five straight possession during the four- minute stretch before settling themselves and regaining the lead a minute later on two Tinsley makes from the stripe.

It was a back-and-forth affair from there.

Game Notes

Alabama is still tied atop the conference with Florida and comfortably leads the SEC West by two games over Mississippi State...Alabama owns a slim 65-64 advantage in the series...Green tallied 23 points and 10 boards, while Mitchell scored 22 points...Releford ended with 11 points for the Tide, who went just 2-for-15 from behind the arc...Taylor had four of Vandy's nine three-pointers...Ezeli netted 11 points...Both teams have only one day off before hitting the floor again, as Vanderbilt hosts 18th-ranked Kentucky and Alabama welcomes Ole Miss on Saturday.