Men's Hoops: LSU 69 Vanderbilt 62

ATLANTA, Ga.-- For the second straight year in the SEC Tournament, Vanderbilt's men's team was forced into a hasty exit. Against a feisty LSU defense that forced 23 turnovers, the Commodores never found any offensive rhythm and fell to the Tigers, 69-62.

LSU (17-13) advanced to play Georgia in a noon Friday quarterfinal match. The Commodores (16-14) must now return home and hope for a Sunday night invitation from the National Invitational Tournament. Unless it comes, Vanderbilt's season is over.

"We have a chance," said coach Kevin Stallings on the subject of the NIT. "Some of that could be affected by what happens in the rest of the tournament.

LSU's airtight, chest-to-chest brand of defense held Vandy to 37% from the field, 35% in the second half.

"We didn't play well offensively, and defensively we broke down in the second half," said Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings. "We were very careless with the ball. Some of our turnovers were just bad. When you make that many mistakes, you're not able to get into a rhythm.

"As they say in tennis, we had a lot of unforced errors today."

LSU coach John Brady agreed. "We made them turn the ball over more than they normally do," said Brady. "Earlier in the year they shot 11-of-22 from the 3-point line. Today they were 7-of-25. Any time Vanderbilt has made less than eight 3-pointers in a game, they have had a hard time winning."

Freshman guard Antonio Hudson paced the Tigers with 24 points. The Commodores were led by Chuck Moore's 21 points and Matt Freije's 18. No other Commodore scored in double figures.

The Commodores and Stallings had felt coming in that this was a very winnable game, but as had been common during the regular season, Vanderbilt opened up stone cold from the field. Vandy managed only 10 points in the game's first 13 minutes and fell behind 25-10.

But a Sam Howard 3-pointer with 5:35 left in the half seemed to ignite Vandy. The Commodores held LSU scoreless in the half's final seven minutes and cut the halftime lead to a respectable 25-23. Chuck Moore, the only Commodore to find an early offensive flow, had 15 of his team's 23 points at the half.

Vanderbilt took a brief lead at 26-25 on a Moore 3-pointer just into the second half, and the game stayed close for the second half's first eight minutes. But LSU's defense began to open up easy scores in the transition game. The Bengals opened up leads of 45-36 and 56-45, and maintained control the rest of the way.

Vandy cut the lead to 67-60 with 32 seconds left on a Matt Freije field goal, then to 67-62 when Freije stole the ball and scored on a dunk. But just two seconds later LSU went the length of the floor and scored on a Jermaine Williams layup-- a sequence that very much mirrored the flow of the whole game.

Senior Chuck Moore, hoping that his college career is not over, said the Commodores still may have an NIT run in them. "If we get in, we're going to try to make it all the way to the [Madison Square] Garden," said an optimistic Moore. "We've got high hopes if we get in there, and hopefully we will." The Vanderbilt fan's home on the web.

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