LSU rallies from 16 down, beats Vandebilt
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Coach Johnny Jones cares only about notching a rare win at Memorial Gym for the LSU Tigers, and how ugly the game might have been at times really doesn’t matter.
Johnny O’Bryant scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as LSU rallied from a 16-point deficit in the first half to beat Vanderbilt 57-51 Thursday night for their second win in three games.
The Tigers (18-11, 9-8) also snapped a seven-game road skid in the Southeastern Conference with their first win away from home since Jan. 11. They had lost three straight in this gym dating back to their last win March 10, 2006, in a series Vanderbilt now leads 34-14 on its own court.
Jones also pointed out Vanderbilt lost by only three in its last game here to No. 1 Florida last week.
“You can get a win here I think it’s always good because they’re a very tough basketball team,” Jones said. “You throw records out the window. However many guys they have, Coach (Kevin Stallings) has done a tremendous job with those guys. You have to make sure you’re at your best when you’re playing them. We had to be very effective on the defensive end to stop them.”
His Tigers overcame a poor shooting first half where they hit only 8 of 30 (26.7 percent) and survived two scoring droughts, the second that stretched 6:49.
Andre Stringer added 11 points for LSU, which hit all eight free throws in the final 3:23 for the win. Stringer was a perfect 8 of 8 at the line himself.
Vanderbilt (15-14, 7-10) lost its third straight and six of the last eight with the two senior starters struggling to shoot on Senior Night. Rod Odom was 4 of 18 and finished with 15 points. Point guard Kyle Fuller missed his first seven shots and wound up 2 of 15 with seven points.
But Odom is averaging 36 minutes a game and Fuller more than 32 with the roster down to seven healthy scholarship players. Stallings said he hopes the season isn’t catching up to his seniors because they have the regular season finale Saturday at Mississippi and then the SEC tournament.
“I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say perhaps, and I mean, how can we know?” Stallings said. “How can we truthfully know? I know that these guys will come out and play their butts off on Saturday. They’ll come out and play as hard as they can on Saturday.”
LSU shot only 33.3 percent (18 of 54) including just 2 of 15 from beyond the arc. The Tigers dominated Vandy on the boards in their previous meeting (48-24), but managed just two more against the Commodores, 42-40, in this one.
The Tigers started like they forgot when tipoff was. They missed eight straight shots twice in the first half and went 6:49 without scoring as Vanderbilt outshot and outhustled them. Vandy took its biggest lead at 28-12 on a pair of free throws by Odom.
“We never doubted ourselves,” O’Bryant said. “We knew all the time we could win the game.”
LSU finished the first half with a 12-4 run to pull within 32-24 at halftime, and it opened the second half pressing on defense. That helped them start with an 11-5 spurt with Shavon Coleman’s two free throws pulling the Tigers within 37-35 with 14:55 remaining. That set up a tight finish with the Commodores hitting just enough shots to keep their lead until they went cold.
“Two good defensive surges during that time,” Jones said.
Odom missed 10 straight shots before his 3-pointer went down with 6:26 left for a 46-41 lead. O’Bryant scored, and Stringer hit two free throws to pull LSU within 46-45. Fuller drove for a layup with 5:25 left, but Vanderbilt didn’t hit another bucket. The Commodores wound up 6 of 29 (20.7 percent) in the second half.
“Got good looks,” Odom said. “It felt good. Just didn’t go in.”
O’Bryant hit two free throws with 3:23 tying it at 49, and Coleman hit two more with 3:02 left giving LSU a 51-49 lead — its first since the opening bucket of the game. The Tigers just padded the lead down the stretch as Vanderbilt missed shot after shot.
Things went so well in the first half for Vanderbilt that walk-on Nathan Watkins hit a 3-pointer seconds after checking in and added a reverse layup after Stallings yelled for somebody to go into the paint. O’Bryant finally ended the Tigers’ scoring drought with a jumper with 2:32 left, starting the Tigers’ comeback