Alabama (6-7) welcomed Vanderbilt (8-4) to Tuscaloosa for the SEC opener for both teams Tuesday night, and the Crimson Tide held on late to win 68-63 after leading by 10 at halftime. The Commodores certainly missed their leading scorer, as guard Eric McClellan (14.3 points per game) missed the game for an undisclosed reason, but forward Rod Odom picked up the slack by going 5-for-7 from three-point range on his way to a double-double (20 points and 10 rebounds).
The Crimson Tide was led to victory by their three starting guards, as Trevor Releford, Retin Obasohan and Levi Randolph combined for 42 points (14-for-31 from the floor; 5-for-13 from beyond the arc), 10 assists, nine rebounds and six steals with, perhaps most importantly, just two turnovers between the three of them. Add in freshman forward Shannon Hale’s solid performance (15 points, three rebounds, and Alabama’s starting five combined for 57 of the team’s 68 points.
Releford entered Tuesday night’s game as the conference’s sixth-leading scorer (18.5 points per game), and he accounts for close to 25 percent of Alabama’s scoring (72.6 points per game coming into Tuesday night’s game). Releford is clearly the best player for the Crimson Tide and he will have to stay healthy, keep himself in the good graces of coach Anthony Grant and perform at a level commensurate with a conference Player of the Year candidate as the competition gets tougher. If any of those three things do not occur, Alabama will have a tough time winning enough games to even enter the conversation for a spot in the NCAA Tournament come March.