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January 18, 2012

Vandy good at any pace

TUSCALOOSA | University of Alabama basketball coach Anthony Grant made headlines Wednesday with his desire to see the Crimson Tide play at a faster tempo.

The Vanderbilt Commodores would probably be glad to oblige.

"I think Vanderbilt is a team that will take advantage of whatever they can get, whether it's in transition or the half-court," Grant said.

Commodore coach Kevin Stallings, in his press conference this week, seemed content to play at any pace required.

"As good a defensive team as (Alabama is), it wouldn't surprise me to see a low-scoring game," Stallings said. "But they had a great defensive team last year, and we ended up with a high-scoring game. We've had some wild games with them the last few years."

Vanderbilt comes into tonight's 6 p.m. game at Coleman Coliseum with a 13-4 record and a perfect 3-0 mark in the Southeastern Conference. Festus Ezeli, the Commodores' 6-foot-11 center, has missed 10 games due to an NCAA suspension and a knee injury, and his return gives the Commodores a strong inside/outside balance and the most experienced team in the league.

"Ezeli is certainly a big part of what they do," Grant said. "But if you look at it, I think they have two of the top five scorers in the league with (John) Jenkins and (Jeffery) Taylor. Then (Brad) Tinsley is another guy who obviously has the ability to score, and Ezeli gives them a presence down low - both offensively and defensively - that most teams across the country would want."

Jenkins, a teammate of UA's JaMychal Green at the World University Games, teams with Taylor to give Vanderbilt the league's best 3-point shooting tandem.

"It takes a lot to prepare for that, and I would have to throw Tinsley in there as well. I think he is a very, very good shooter," Grant said. "At times, they will have four or five guys that will really stretch the defense. I think they are second in the league in 3-pointers per game. So we need to do a great job of guarding the 3 and take away the time and space. You know, it's difficult with the way they run their offense, so certainly that will be a priority for us."

Alabama (13-4, 2-1 SEC) has not lost a home conference game since the 2010 season.

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil.hurt@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0225.

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