Hudson helps Tigers squelch Vandy

The LSU basketball team has been able to prove something as of late – it doesn't need to ride the back of Ronald Dupree to win games. With the Tigers' leading scorer held to seven points for the second game in a row, LSU got a career-high 24 from freshman guard Antonio Hudson to hold off Vanderbilt, 69-62, in the opening game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Atlanta.

Using what's become its patented stifling defense, LSU forced 23 Vanderbilt turnovers and converted them into 28 points. Capitalizing on the Commodores' miscues allowed the Tigers to offset a 17-point Vandy run and build a 13-point lead in the second half.


Vanderbilt made a late charge in the game to cut LSU's lead to single digits but 7-of-8 free throw shooting in the final three minutes allowed the Tigers to keep a safe distance.


While Dupree failed to score in the second half for the second game in a row, Jermaine Williams snapped back from a scoreless opening 20 minutes to score 12 points in the game. He accounted for half of LSU's ten steals in the contest.


Dupree, who was also unable to score in the second half in the season finale at Auburn, did all of his scoring against Vanderbilt in the first seven minutes of the game.


"We didn't allow them to get into a rhythm of offense and we made them turn the ball over a little more than they do," said LSU head coach John Brady.


"It was good for team to win its second game in a row without Ronald Dupree, our best player, not having a double-figure scoring game."


LSU (17-13) found a way to stop Vanderbilt's main scoring threat, Chuck Moore. After scoring 15 points in the first half, the Tigers cuffed him for just six in the final period. Moore hit a three-pointer just 24 seconds into the second half to give the Commodores their first lead since seven minutes into the game. But he would only score three more points the remainder of the game - all from the free throw line.


"(Moore) came out the first half getting a lot of threes and driving by us like we were kind of slow or something," said Williams. "I kind of took that at a personal level and told my teammates and told myself he wasn't scoring on me. Nobody was scoring on me in the second half."


The final three-pointer from Moore put the Commodores ahead, 26-25, but the Tigers went back in front when Torris Bright, after missing a three-pointer, made a steal after the Vanderbilt rebound and scored under the basket. Bright finished the game with eleven points and four steals.


Matt Freije tied the game at 27 with a free throw less than a minute later, but Hudson put the Tigers ahead for good with two free throws at the 17:23 mark.


Hudson provided LSU with an inside, outside and transition scoring threat against Vanderbilt. He was 8-for-14 from the field, with 2-of-4 shooting on three-pointers, and hit 6-of-7 free throws.


"Since I could shoot the three a little bit, (Vanderbilt) started running out on me so I just head-faked and moved around them," said Hudson. "Now I just need to work on finishing balls at the goal because sometimes…I go in there and just shoot and miss when I should get a foul or something." 


LSU extended its lead to nine with a quick string of transitions toward the middle of the second half. After Hudson missed a layup, Bright made a steal on the Vanderbilt end of the court and fed to Dupree, who had his shot near the basket blocked. But Hudson recovered and hit a three-point basket.


The Commodores lost control the ball in the paint on their next possession, and Jason Wilson recovered it from a pile of players on the court. Making his way down with the numbers in LSU's favor, Wilson got a pass near the goal and slammed it in for 45-36 lead with 9:23 to play.


Doug Plavich, who along with Moore led Vanderbilt with 18 points in its 68-63 regular season win over LSU, provided a three-pointer at the 6:36 mark to make the score 47-43. It was the only basket of the game for Plavich, who would miss three consecutive shots on the next three Vanderbilt possessions and end the day 1-for-7 from the field.


As a team, Vanderbilt shot 37 percent (22-59) including 7-of-25 on three-pointers. One of Brady's defensive goals was to limit the chances the Commodores got from behind the arc, and the Tigers were successful in creating poor shooting opportunities for Vandy from long range.


"We're a team that needs to shoot well," said Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings. "Not only didn't we shoot well, we also failed to take care of the ball. We're not going to win games if we have that combination going."


"Any time Vandy's had eight or less three's, they've had a hard time winning," said Brady. "I told our team if we defended the three-point line, we'd have a chance to beat them."


Plavich's dry spell allowed LSU to grab its first double-digit lead, as Hudson drove to the hole for a layup with under three minutes left that made the score 56-45. The biggest advantage for the Tigers, 62-49 with 2:21 remaining, came when Bright passed to Hudson on a fast break for an easy hand-flip.


In the late stages, Vanderbilt kept up the pace on offense and took advantage of some give in the LSU defense, which was not looking to commit fouls that would stop the clock. Freije, who finished with 18 points, scored nine points in the final 90 seconds of the game, but it was Williams who provided the game's last basket with a fast break layup with 9.7 seconds remaining.


Antonio Hudson (Dave Martin/AP)

Antonio Hudson fights for a basket against Vanderbilt David Przybyszewski in the opening game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament. Hudson led LSU with 24 points in the Tigers' 69-62 win over the Commodores. (Dave Martin/AP Photo)


"We stayed with our game plan," said Williams. "Coach got on us at halftime for losing the lead for the first few minutes of the game. We knew we were a lot better than that. We stayed together, picked up the intensity, played good defense and ran good offense."


The difference after 20 minutes of play was the difference between the runs each team had. LSU scored 16 unanswered points while Vanderbilt went on a 14-0 run before the half.


David Pzrybyszewski gave Vandy a 10-9 lead with a shot in the lane at the 12:45 mark but it would be the last points for the Commodores over the next 7:08. Hudson drove to the hoop for a short basket to get LSU back in front and trigger the 16-0 run for the Tigers. The last points in the run also came from Hudson, whose three-pointer made the score 25-10 with 7:05 to go.


It took until the 5:37 mark for Vanderbilt to break its scoring skid. Following a steal in the LSU backcourt, Commodores' guard Sam Howard stutter-stepped his way to a transition lay-up and was fouled by Charlie Thompson. The three-point play cut LSU's lead to 12.

With under four minutes to go before the break, it was all Moore who scored ten of his 15 points in the closing stretch of the first half. After a baseline layup, he converted a three-point play on the next Vandy possession with 3:09 remaining. Back-to-back second chance baskets from Moore, including a three-pointer, narrowed LSU's lead to 25-23.

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