As matter of fact, the injured Destini Hughes started the game for the Lady Tigers and briefly touched the ball after the opening tip as Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb showed her gratitude. Hughes, who received a standing ovation at the PMAC, handed the ball to the referee and exited the court as she was replaced by Jeanne Kenney.
While Hughes couldn't contribute on the court, her fellow seniors LaSondra Barrett and Courtney Jones did and helped carry LSU past No. 24-ranked Vanderbilt 69-66.
Barrett and Jones combined for 33 points and 19 rebounds for LSU (20-8, 10-5 SEC), while Christina Foggie, who had a team-leading 17 points, and Jasmine Lister with 14 points paced Vanderbilt (20-8, 8-7 SEC).
The win on Senior Night for the Lady Tigers caps a home regular season when LSU notched a 4-0 record against ranked opponents.
"We got five great seniors and they have meant a lot to this program," LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. "(Thursday) they showed their toughness. They showed how courageous they can be. They just made plays when they needed too. We're just very, very thankful for this senior class."
Barrett was a force in the first half and was there when LSU needed her most. Barrett scored 11 points on 9-of-10 shooting at the free-throw line with 7 rebounds.
After trading baskets for the first 10 minutes of action, LSU went on a 6-0 run ignited by an Adrienne Webb bucket in the paint to take its biggest lead up to that point 16-11 with 9:27 remaining.
Just when the Lady Tigers looked to expand their lead, Vanderbilt responded with a flurry of 3-pointers. The Lady Commodores connected on 10 3-pointers on the night, 5 in the first half.
Freshman Kady Schrann kept Vanderbilt within striking distance in the first half. Schrann connected on three 3-pointers including one at the 7:39 mark to cut LSU's lead to 19-18. After two Barrett free throws and a Jeanne Kenney jumper, Schrann answered again.
With 2:23 remaining Foggie lined up and drilled another 3-pointer to tie the game at 29-29. Yet, the Lady Tigers closed out the half with three free throws and a jumper by Webb to take a 34-29 lead.
In the second half, LSU clung and clawed to preserve the win. Jones was instrumental scoring 11 of her 13 points in the final 20 minutes.
"(Barrett) and Courtney Jones both really played well (Thursday)," Caldwell said. "I thought they played tough in the paint. I think those two really got it going and got us to the free-throw line. I think (Thursday) that was key for us."
Jones drained a jump shot to push LSU's lead to 38-32, but the first 11 minutes of the half belonged to Vanderbilt. Swayze Black fouled Lister attempting a three. Lister proceeded to make her free throws and gave the Lady Commodores their first lead since the 14:23 mark in the first half, 43-42.
Vanderbilt advanced the deficit to as much as five when Stephanie Holzer, who finished with 6 points and 4 rebounds, added a layup.
However, the momentum and game switched sides with 8:22 remaining as Vanderbilt was grasping a 49-48 lead.
Following a timeout by LSU, Theresa Plaisance blocked a Foggie layup attempt as the swatted ball traveled into the arms of Bianca Lutley,who burst up court and found a wide-open Jones underneath for a layup to give the Lady Tigers a 50-49 lead they didn't relinquish the rest of the night.
"Coach, during the timeout talked about how we needed to pick up our defense and she was absolutely right," Barrett said. "I think we started to gain momentum. Once you have that momentum on your side you have the fans and the bench is into it. I think we just hit them back in the mouth harder and made our runs and that was a crucial part in the game."
Following Jones' layup, Plaisance, who finished with 5 points, 4 rebounds and 3 blocks, hit a 3-pointer to give LSU a 55-49 lead.
Not to be outdone, Vanderbilt gave it one final run and after an Elan Brown 3-pointer trailed 65-63 with 49 seconds remaining. But, it was Barrett and Jones who were there to seal the victory for the Lady Tigers. The seniors finished the game connecting on four consecutive free throws.
"We still have one more regular-season game to go and we got some unfinished business," Caldwell said. "If they come with that same type of intensity and attitude they will definitely go out of here on a great note."
LSU will travel to Athens to play the No. 16-ranked Georgia women Sunday to close regular-season play.