LSU Shoots Down Struggling Vols

Thompson-Boling Arena is becoming a port in the storm for the cold-shooting, road-weary, winless and huddled losers of the Southeastern Conference.

One week after Alabama won its first road game of the season, beating Tennessee 76-71, LSU captured its first road victory of the season, vanquishing the Vols 88-67 behind an Arena record 17-of-27 (63 percent) 3-point shooting performance.

Like Bama, LSU (17-9, 6-8) jumped out to a 10-0 advantage from the opening tip and never trailed. Unlike its game against the Crimson Tide, Tennessee (15-10, 7-7) never had an answer and failed to mount a serious threat.

Trailing by as much as 21 in the opening period, the Vols did manage to close the gap to 47-33 at the half, thanks to a 3-pointer by Jon Higgins at the buzzer. A pair of free throws by Higgins at the 18:00 mark of the second half, cut the Tigers' edge to single digits at 49-40. However, LSU countered with a trio of treys on its next three possessions to go on top 58-40 and coasted to a comfortable win while condemning UT to its fourth straight setback.

"We got off to a slow start," Tennessee's Buzz Peterson acknowledged. "When we were on our winning streak we were coming out aggressive. Falling behind made it an uphill battle all night long."

In a game that might have very well determined its post-season fate, Tennessee appeared to lack fire and energy as it was consistently beaten back on defense and was slow to challenge shooters on the perimeter. LSU, which connected on 16 three-pointers in a 94-63 home victory over Auburn on Wednesday, took advantage by knocking down its open looks and pushing the ball in transition for easy scores.

Senior forward Ronald Dupree, who had hit only eight shots from behind the arc the entire season, knocked down 4-of-4 against the Vols en route to 21 points. Classmate Collis Temple III scored a game-high 23 points, nailing 6-of-8 triple attempts.

"We never really got out on the shooters," said Peterson. "We were there sometimes but we didn't really get in their field of vision. When they're shooting like that it makes for a long night."

Ron Slay led Tennessee with 19 points but the SEC's scoring leader struggled from the field, hitting on 7-of-18 and just 1-of-7 of his 3-point attempts. Slay pulled down a game-high nine rebounds, but committed more turnovers (eight) than LSU's team total of six. Higgins added 18 points including a 4-of-7 night from 3-point range. Thaydeus Holden scored 11 points, while C.J. Watson had seven points and seven assists for the Vols.

After shooting 62 percent in the first half, LSU finished the game hitting 30-of-55 for 54 percent. Tennessee shot 25-of-52 from the field (48 percent) including 9-of-21 of its 3-point attempts.

The defeat likely put the Vols in a position where they will need to win their final two games of the regular season to earn an invitation the NCAA Tournament. Mississippi State comes to Knoxville on Wednesday off a 53-51 upset loss at Arkansas and Tennessee finishes the regular season at Vanderbilt on Saturday.

Tennessee looked like a strong candidate to return to the Big Dance after winning its sixth straight two weeks ago in an upset of No. 4 Florida, but four consecutive setbacks by an average of 12 points per contest, including three to teams below .500 in the SEC, may relegate the Vols to the NIT.

"We're all discouraged a little," said Peterson, admitting that a heavy playing load may be taking a toll on his starters late in the campaign. "I'm puzzled by the way things have happened, but we can't hang our heads. We've got to come back and try to get a win on Wednesday."

One thing the Vols could use is a boost from the bench. Tennessee only got four points from its reserves against LSU and six verses Alabama.


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