How it Happened
It was eerily similar to LSU's game against Wake Forest as Vanderbilt was hot from beyond the arc, but the Tigers also started out hot. With 11:40 left to go in the first half, the Commodores were 6-for-10 from three-point land while the Tigers were 5-for-8. It was a bit of a shooting exhibition early in the game. A 20-5 run by Vanderbilt and an LSU scoring drought that ran nearly four minutes helped the Commodores build a 45-42 halftime lead. Vanderbilt only scored two baskets in the first half that were not three-point baskets. The Tigers closed with a 15-2 run late in the first half that helped close the gap to three. Vanderbilt went without a field goal for over five minutes near the end of the half.
In the second half, LSU allowed Vanderbilt to build a 20-point lead with 9:05 to go in the game, but the Tigers battled back to close it to a six-point lead late in the second half. LSU couldn't finish the comeback and fell at home to open SEC play. Even without Aaron Epps late, who fouled out and finished with three points, three turnovers and five rebounds, LSU caught a spark from Wayde Sims. The freshman finished with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Even with a late push by LSU lead by Antonio Blakeney and Vanderbilt making 2 of its last 8 field goals, the Tigers couldn't complete the comeback. LSU dropped the game 96-89 after allowing Matthew Fisher-Davis and Riley LaChance to combine for 47 points.
What it Means
LSU just couldn't play a complete game. LSU had too many defensive breakdowns while falling cold at the wrong times. While Vanderbilt didn't finish the game as strongly as it would have liked, the Commodores made enough timely baskets to hold off an LSU push late. LSU didn't rotate well enough to defend the Vanderbilt sharp shooters and at times, just didn't give enough effort. It was not a must-win for the Tigers, but losing this game to a Vanderbilt team who hadn't really beaten anyone, that's not a good sign for what's to come. Reath was nonexistent in 32 minutes with five points and two rebounds too. That has to change for LSU to get some balance in its offense.
Player of the Game: Antonio Blakeney
Even though Sims helped LSU get back into the game with four 3-point buckets, Blakeney lead the way for LSU with 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting with seven rebounds too. Blakeney couldn't get enough room and finish well enough consistently to complete the comeback. LSU didn't get much scoring help outside of Brandon Sampson and Sims' spurts. It was on Blakeney again tonight and the sophomore finished with his fourth straight 20-point game.
The two teams combined for 60 three-point baskets and while LSU made 61 percent and Vanderbilt made 50 percent of those attempts, LSU allowed too many second-chance points with 12 points from Vanderbilt. The Tigers committed 15 turnovers, but Vanderbilt took advantage with a staggering 30 points off turnovers.
The Tigers take on Missouri on the road on Wednesday, January 4 at 8 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.