The LSU men's basketball team fended off a late rally and picked up its third straight victory, a 57-56 decision over Vanderbilt Wednesday at the Maravich Center.
Andre Stringer says LSU is a team to be reckoned with
In the process, LSU (13-7, 4-5 SEC) ended a seven-game losing streak to the Commodores (8-13, 2-7 SEC) which dated back to the 2005-06 season. The Tigers also won their second consecutive one-point decision in SEC play for the first time since the 1971-72 campaign when LSU defeated Tennessee (63-62) and Ole Miss (67-66).
"It just says a lot about what we've been talking about all year,” said LSU guard Andre Stringer. “We are a team to be reckoned with and some things didn't go our way early in the SEC. We also had some setbacks before the SEC started, but guys still remained the same.
“We are a family and play hard for each other. We always have each other's backs. Even when we lose games, we still uplift each other. Every game we've had lately we are encouraging each other, and that's why we've had this streak going."
Anthony Hickey turned in another solid all-around effort with 14 points and equaled a career-high seven rebounds to go along with five assists. He extended his run to 12 straight outings with double figures dating back to the UC Irvine on December 18.
Johnny O'Bryant III chipped in 10 points and five rebounds. He had his streak of five consecutive double-doubles come to a close.
Charles Carmouche and Malik Morgan added nine points apiece for the Tigers. All nine of Morgan's points came in the opening stanza.
Vanderbilt's Rod Odom poured in 17 of his career-high 20 points during the second half. He canned a trio of three-pointers inside the final 27 seconds and nearly brought the Commodores back from a seven-point hole.
Dai-Jon Parker and Kedren Johnson garnered complete performances for Vandy. Parker secured 11 points, nine rebounds and four assists whereas Johnson notched seven points, five assists and four rebounds.
LSU connected for a 36 percent shooting ratio (18-of-50) compared to a 31.5 percent clip (17-of -54) for the Commodores. Nine of LSU's 18 field goals were from three-point territory.
After starting the game shooting 4-for-20, LSU buried seven consecutive field goals and finished the opening half with a 16-point flurry over the last 3:21. The Tigers turned a three-point deficit into a 31-18 halftime advantage.
"The good thing is I thought we really allowed Vanderbilt to control the tempo in the first half,” said LSU head coach Johnny Jones. “In the last four or five minutes, we jumped into our press. We went on a nice little run and went into the locker room with a little cushion, forcing them to play a little faster than they wanted to.”
Hickey buried a deep three-ball to ignite the spurt and an Andrew Del Piero lay-up off a putback gave LSU a 20-18 edge. The Tigers stretched their lead to eight points after Hickey and Carmouche knocked down back-to-back triples 23 seconds apart.
Del Piero kept the momentum with the Purple and Gold after a thunderous two-handed dunk, and Hickey nailed another three-pointer as the first half buzzer sounded to make it 31-18. During the opening half, LSU's defense limited the Commodores to only a quartet of field goals.
Vanderbilt pieced together 13 of the first 17 points over the first 7:00 of the second half to draw back to 35-31. The Tigers answered with Hickey and O'Bryant III jumpers followed by a Carmouche triple to surge back ahead 42-31 at the 10:10 mark.
Down 51-44 with 3:11 to go, the Commodores made one final charge behind a quartet of three-pointers. Odom accounted for three of the triples during the last 27 seconds, including one from 30-feet away at the buzzer for the final margin of 57-56.
LSU connected for 6-of-8 at the foul line inside the final 1:22. With the score 55-53, O'Bryant III calmly sank two critical free throws with 7.7 seconds on the clock to make it a two-possession game.
“In the second half, I thought they did a great job of being poised,” Jones said of his Tigers. “(Vanderbilt) made a run late in the second half. However, I thought our guys did a great job down the stretch knocking down free throws to be able to seal the win, especially Johnny (O'Bryant III) there with his two late in the game."
The Tigers return to the road Saturday for the first of two meetings with Alabama over a 14-day span. Tip time is slated for 7 p.m. CT from Coleman Coliseum, and the game will carried live by ESPN2.
“I told our guys prior to the season starting that you have to make sure you come ready to compete and play as hard as you possibly can to give yourself a chance,” Jones said. “We have been fortunate to do that. We have given ourselves a chance. We've had some success in several games. We are fortunate in four of the last five games some things have happened for us."