On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Baton Rouge, "Mike" prowled in his enclosure while the Pete Maravich Assembly Center aka P-MAC loomed behind like a recently landed flying saucer.
The PMAC has a designated student section for basketball games, but as is the case at many SEC schools, women's basketball isn't a big draw. The gorgeous weather outside and the AFC championship game on TV probably didn't help.
The Dores huddle in the tunnel immediately before taking the court.
TIPOFF: Head Coach Melanie Balcomb used the same starting lineup that's been in place for most of the season: Jasmine Lister, Christina Foggie, Kady Schrann, TIffany Clarke, and Elan Brown.
Christina Foggie, who finished the game with 13 points, scored Vanderbilt's first point on one of a pair of free throws two minutes into the game. Those two early foul shots were the only free throws attempted by a guard the entire game.
After the loss, Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb noted the lack of trips to the free throw line. "What's disappointing and what's glaring on the stats sheet is us only taking nine free throws and they taking 21," she said. "We have to be aggressive. We have to go to the basket more."
The Dores didn't hit a field goal for the first five minutes of the game. Tiffany Clarke scored the team's first points from the field to make the score 8-4 in favor of LSU.
A couple of more baskets from Clarke and a jumper by Heather Bowe put the Dores on top, and a 3-pointer by Jasmine Lister gave Vanderbilt a 5-point lead at 15-10 midway through the first half.
The 3-pointer by Lister gave her the 998th, 999th, and 1000th points of her Vanderbilt career. With the basket she became the 36th player in Vanderbilt history to join the 1000-point club.
The Sunday afternoon game was LSU's "We Back Pat" game. Former Lady Vol Nikki Caldwell wore the t-shirt, leaving it to her shoes to make a fashion statement.
At halftime, Vanderbilt held an 8-point lead at 24-16. Early in the second second half, that lead increased to 10 points at 31-21 on a 3-pointer by Foggie.
Then LSU began to make their run. After the Lady Tigers cut the lead back to six points, TIffany Clarke's old-fashioned 3-point play brought the lead back to nine points at 25-34.
But once again, LSU made a run. The crowd got loud, and with 11:45 left in the game, a 3-pointer by Theresa Plaisance tied the game at 34-34. From that point on, it was a dog fight, first one team on top, then the other. From then to the end of the game, there were five lead changes and four ties.
A pair of made free throws by Elan Brown put the Dores on top 44-42 with 7:13 left, but LSU quickly tied it on a basket by Adrienne Webb.
A layup by Clarke put Vanderbilt ahead again at 46-44 with 6:37 left. And so it went, with neither team able to create any separation.
With 19 seconds left in the game and LSU leading by one-point at 52-51, a defensive rebound by Brown gave the Dores a chance to set up for a final play. But the play resulted in a steal by LSU's Bianca Lutley with seven seconds left, and Vanderbilt was forced to foul.
Lutley hit the free throws, putting LSU up by three points. With seven seconds left and Vanderbilt with possession of the ball, Coach Balcomb called a timeout to set up a final play to tie the game. But the play fell apart, the LSU claimed the 54-51 victory.
An obviously disappointed and frustrated Coach Balcomb talked to the press after the game. Coupled with the failure to get to the free throw line, the team's turnovers were also a sore point.
"The second stat that is very disappointing is 20 turnovers against a zone. So you've not penetrating, you're not attacking, and you're turning the ball over. And that's disappointing.," she said.
"Obviously LSU confused us. We looked confused all night. I'm not sure where the confusion came from, but we were hesitant and confused," she said.
"Obviously they did a great job I thought of crashing the offensive boards. It's debilitating too when you get a stop but then you can't get the rebound," she continued. "I thought when they needed to get the ball back, they either smacked it out of our hands or they got the rebound, and they became more of the aggressor when they got down and played freer, and we played tighter."
The Dores will attempt to bounce back from the disappointing loss on Thursday night when the Tennessee Lady Vols visit Memorial Gym. Game time is 8 p.m., and the game will be televised on SportsSouth. Red Panda, the popular unicycle act, will provide the halftime entertainment.
Photos copyright 2013 by Whitney D. for VandyMania.com