LSU drops Dores- claims West

Darrel Mitchell scored 21 points and No. 24 LSU beat Vanderbilt 77-66 Wednesday night to clinch a second straight Southeastern Conference Western Division title.

The Tigers (19-7, 11-2) gave coach John Brady his first victory in Memorial Gym in five visits and LSU's first here since Jan. 10, 1996. Kentucky's Rupp Arena is the only SEC gym left where Brady has yet to win.

The Commodores had dominated this series in Nashville, winning 33 of the first 45. But Vanderbilt (14-10, 5-8) dropped a fourth home conference this season and a second straight to a ranked team.

Glen Davis added 16 points and 11 rebounds for LSU, and Tyrus Thomas had 15 points and 14 rebounds as the Tigers used their size advantage to dominate inside. They outrebounded Vanderbilt 46-29 and outscored the Commodores 34-20 in the paint, which gave them a decided advantage at the free throw line (24-of-35 to 11-of-13).

LSU led by as many as 13 points in the second half only to watch the desperate Commodores rally within 64-62 with 3:16 left on two free throws by Alex Gordon.

But Davis answered on the other end with a dunk that shook the backboard, then Gordon lost the ball under his own basket to Davis on Vandy's next possession. Davis hit two free throws that helped seal the victory.

Derrick Byars led Vanderbilt with 18 points, while Shan Foster had 13 of his 15 in the first half and Julian Terrell added 10.

LSU took control by opening the second half by hitting its first four shots in an 11-2 spurt that included a 3-pointer from Davis, who had hit only two of his first 15 attempts this season. The Tigers were up 53-41 on a jumper by Tasmin Mitchell with 11:24 left.

Byars got the Commodores back in the game with three straight 3s, the last pulling Vanderbilt within 61-58 with 6:24 remaining in a display that also revived the crowd.

The Tigers took the lead for good when Darrel Mitchell hit LSU's first 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to make it 31-30. It was a rough half for LSU with Vanderbilt twice leading by as many as seven points, the last at 21-14 on a one-handed shot by Foster.

The Commodores didn't turn the ball over for the first 10 minutes, and Terrell's tip-in of a missed layup by Gordon gave Vandy a 30-28 lead with 2:25 left in the first half.

LSU Head Coach John Brady

"As far as I was concerned, the key for us winning this game was how we defended what Vanderbilt wanted to do with its offense. I thought we defended them extremely well, and did a good job of both identifying and switching out on their shooters. On the defensive end, we did a good job defending what they do best the whole game.

"Obviously, rebounding was the big for us. We had an advantage there. When it got close in the second half we were able to stop them on the defensive end, then we did a good job rebounding. We also had guys make some timely free throws down the stretch."

Play of Darrel Mitchell:

"I think Darrell consistently should be a candidate for SEC player of the year. Nobody has performed more consistently this year while being asked to play a position he has never played. But that's what seniors are supposed to do."

Importance of winning on the road in Nashville:

"I thought this was a game that Vanderbilt really needed and all the sudden we become a marquee win for them. I told our team we were going to get Vanderbilt's best shot. So yes, it's a very important game, but we were a confident team coming in here. I told our team before the game that we were going to win tonight."

LSU Player Quotes

F Tyrus Thomas

On the play of Darrel Mitchell

"Darrel's a senior. He's a super senior and that's what he's supposed to do. Whenever we need a basket, the play's drawn for Darrel. Whenever we need somebody to step up, we know Darrel's going to do it. He's been down this road before and he leads us. He's our leader; he's our captain and this is his team."

On his clutch free throw shooting

"It's just practice. You see me out there shooting free throws, shooting jump shots. The practice on the free throws just came in handy today. I was 9-for-10 – I think I missed my second one of the game and I didn't miss any more after that. It's just from practice and repetition and being comfortable shooting it – blocking out the noise and focusing on the rim."

On winning on the road in front of a tough crowd

"We won this one because we overcame the noise. Whenever a good team makes a run at home, there's going to be a lot of noise. Vanderbilt's a great team and they made a great run, their crowd got really involved, but we zoned it out and did what we had to do down the stretch to get the win."

On the importance of their rebounding

"We knew we had to come out and not let them get second shots. They're a great shooting team and you can't give them second shots because they're not going to miss many."

On winning the SEC West

"It's a big step for us. I just want to win and get a ring. Hopefully we can win more than the SEC West, we can win the entire SEC. It means a lot to us. If we win the SEC West and the whole SEC, we'll have a better seed in the NCAA tournament."

G Darrel Mitchell

On his big three-pointer in the second half

"We were struggling to get a shot – the shot clock was running down and Tasmin Mitchell drove to the top of the key and there were three guys coming at him and he was able to see me and I was able to knock it down."

On his improved shooting in the second half

"I just started off slow tonight, it was one of those games. But I kind of got into the groove and hit some key shots at the end of the first half and in the second half. I was able to knock down some free throws in the second half. Being a senior, you want to come in on the road and we did what we needed to do to win the game."

Vanderbilt Head Coach Kevin Stallings

Opening statement...

"We knew the back doors could be a problem tonight, and unfortunately they were. We created foul trouble by failing to box out. And maybe the tape will tell me something different, but I don't think it was because of a lack of effort. If they get deep under there and it becomes a jumping contest, you're going to lose."

"At the start of the second half they were hitting some shots, and we spent the rest of the game trying to recover from that run. I thought it was within reach there, but we were just unable to catch up."

On Vanderbilt's outside shooting...

"We knew coming into the game that we would have to make threes. It's very difficult to score on them around the basket. We had some inside looks sent back at us, and some we just missed. [Tyrus] Thomas is an imposing figure in there, and [Glen] Davis just eats up space. They played very well against us tonight."

"We wanted to penetrate the ball. You can't just stand out there and shoot threes. You have to attack the basket. They are a very good defensive team. Their defense is accentuated by the fact that they've got a guy back there Thomas that can jump as high as he needs to jump. We didn't have enough answers, especially on the backboards."

On Vanderbilt's pressure defense...

"I think that helped us get back in the game. We may not be deep enough to play that way for a full 40 minutes. But that is probably the best way to play against them, because they're no comfortable. We knew that coming in - that wasn't a secret to us. They started the second half quickly, and we changed defenses to try and scramble the game. It worked for us, just not well enough."

On whether LSU is the SEC's best rebounding team...

"Probably. If they're not, you wouldn't have to call the roll very long to get to them."

Vanderbilt Player Quotes

Guard Derrick Byars

On LSU's start to the second half:

"We like to emphasize taking advantage of the last four minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half. Those are pivotal points during the game. LSU took advantage at the start of the second half."

On Vanderbilt's offensive rebounding:

"I'm saddened that I didn't record a rebound tonight. LSU has the most athletic frontcourt in the conference with [Glen] Davis and [Tyrus] Thomas. We knew that we had a lot on our hands to handle."

Vanderbilt Forward Julian Terrell

On Vanderbilt's NCAA Tournament hopes:

"Right now we're sitting at 5-8. During my sophomore year we finished 8-8 in the league and last year we could have won one or two more to get in. I'm not too concerned over the NCAA Tournament. Whatever comes will come. We still have a few games left to play and we'll worry about the tournament when it's time."

Vanderbilt Forward Shan Foster


"They're a very athletic team. Tyrus Thomas is one of the most athletic players in the league, and Glen Davis is one of the strongest. You won't win a jumping contest against them."

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