Vandy upsets LSU 63-61; Tennessee up next

A first round bye and fresh legs for the No. 21 Lady Tigers were of little consequence to an aggressive Vanderbilt squad out to revenge their worst game of the season. The Commodores defeated LSU 63-61 for the fourth consecutive time in the SEC Tournament, and avenged the 55-39 drubbing suffered in Baton Rouge a few weeks ago.

Not since 2000 has LSU (20-9) lost their opening round tournament game – and that was to Vanderbilt. Many things went right in a victory that prevented LSU from reaching the semifinals for the first time since 2001.

"We talked about that loss on our bus trip here," said point guard Jence Rhoads, who finished with 8 points and 6 rebounds. "We didn't want to come out like we did in Baton Rouge. We weren't proud of that game at all. We wanted to show them what we're really made of." The Lady Tigers has held teams to an average of 51.8 points per game during the regular season.

With a second win in as many days, Vandy (22-9) advances to the semis instead in a Saturday bout with No. 1 SEC seed and 4th-ranked Tennessee, which has twice this season won in single digits, 57-64 and 60-69.

Jence echoed a team sentiment in saying they are excited to play UT again. "We need to get some revenge back on them. We're pumped and ready to go. It will be a challenge because we've played two games and a lot of minutes, but it's tournament time. That's what you do. We came here to play. We'll be going off adrenaline so I don't think it will be a problem."

A vocal Lady Tiger crowd roared enough to try to "own" the court, but Vandy's play said plenty. First round jitters were over and a 1-point win over Arkansas in overtime Thursday night set the stage for making a stand.

Hannah Tuomi scored 8 of her 17 points during a 12-0 run when the 'Dores were down 15-3 at the 12:45 mark. Vandy led 32-30 at the half. From rebounding (38-30 VU edge) to positioning in the post, Vanderbilt was prepared. Credit Tiffany Clarke for a game-saving board at 5.7 seconds on the clock and Vandy ahead 63-61. The freshman snatched 10 boards total and sank 6 points.

"I didn't want this game to go into overtime. It was my job to get the ball. I don't know how many people were around me but I had to get that rebound," Tiffany said.

Hannah scored often in the paint after getting open repeatedly and frustrating LSU Coach Van Chancellor. "The kid we couldn't stop was 15. She did a heck of a job."

Merideth Marsh tied for the lead in scoring at 17, and hit four threes, including the game-opening shot, to help her team toward the victory. The defending 2009 SEC Champions were confident and clicking, and taking advantage of new lineup looks in the post-season.

Entering the starting lineup for the second time in the tournament, freshman Gabby Smith is bringing defensive energy to push quicker starts.

"I definitely bring energy. The last two games I haven't made a bunch of shots, but I'm doing a job, trying to make sure everyone is confident," she said.

LSU National Player of the Year candidate Allison Hightower scored 24 points in the loss and Katherine Graham hit 10 for double digits. The defenders did pick pockets, grabbing 8 steals, which contributed to 18 turnovers for Vandy.

In Friday's nightcap, Mississippi State upset No. 22 Georgia 67-52 and will play Kentucky, winners over Auburn, at 6 p.m. EST during the semifinals. Vandy plays Tennessee in the 2:30 CST opener. Both games will be carried on EPSN2.

Merideth Marsh wraps a shot around LSU's Jasmine Nelson.

Hannah Tuomi gets good position in the paint.

Jence Rhoads works a layup around a defender.

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