Vanderbilt Upsets No. 4 Alabama 70-69 1/11/03

The Vanderbilt Commodores (8-5, 1-1) pulled off the upset of No. 4 Alabama (11-2, 1-1) 70-69 Saturday night in Memorial Gym in front of a raucous 12,514 in attendance. Junior Matt Freije led the way for the 'Dores as he poured in 19 points.

Vanderbilt opened the game with an intensity and aggression the Commodore faithful have not seen in quite a while. The first few minutes of the game was played at an incredible pace. The Commodores jumped out to an early lead due to the hot perimeter shooting. Vanderbilt hit four of its first five three-point shots.

Junior Scott Hundley made the play of the first half when he penetrated the Bama defense and drew a foul as he made an unbelievable shot. That play put the 'Dores up by 11 with 4:06 to play.

But Alabama had an answer and his name was Mo Williams. Williams, with Alabama trailing by 10, hit an acrobatic shot and hit the foul shot to pull the Tide to within seven.

Vanderbilt ended the first half with a 36-30 lead. The Commodores shot a blistering 60 percent from the field and 71 percent from long range. The hot shooting was in part due to Freije's perfect first half where he went 5-5 from the field with two three-pointers.

Freije picked up right where he left off in the second half when he made a conventional three-point play while getting fouled on a turnaround baseline jumper. Freije finished the game with 19 points.

After an Alabama dunk and two more threes from Williams, Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings went to a box-in-one defense to try and slow down Williams. Williams could not be stopped as he kept the Tide in the game with 23 points, including six three-pointers.

With the Commodores holding on to a two-point lead, junior point guard Russell Lakey hit one of the biggest shots of the night as he knocked down a three-pointer that brought Stallings to his feet. Stallings was so excited he looked to the crowd and waved his arms to encourage the already energized crowd.

"Our crowd was great. Our fans definitely gave us a home court advantage tonight," Stallings said.

With the tension mounting and Alabama slowly coming back in the final minutes of the game, the 'Dores were desperately looking for a bucket. Vanderbilt had not scored a field goal since Lakey's big three at the six minute mark.

As Vanderbilt was clinging to a two-point advantage with a minute remaining, Lakey started a play that was designed to go to Hundley. But, with the Tide defending Hundley, Lakey had to heave a three just before the shot clock expired that hit nothing but the bottom of the net.

That shot proved to be enough to propel the Commodores to the first victory over a Top-5 opponent since they defeated No. 4 UCLA in 1995, and the first win at home over a Top-5 opponent since Vanderbilt beat No. 1 Kentucky in 1993.

Vanderbilt hosts No. 18 Kentucky in a nationally televised game at 8 p.m. CT Tuesday night in Memorial Gym. The game is the second game of ESPN's "Super Tuesday" lineup.


Vanderbilt Athletic Department
2601 Jess Neely Drive
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