Tigers make it three straight with win over Vanderbilt
Hickey’s 12th-straight double-figure game sparks 57-56 victory at home
Basketball is a game of two and three-minute spurts.
Forty minute games are often decided in the shortest of snippets.
Fortunately for LSU, they had the best of those spurts on Wednesday night in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
The Tigers finished the first half on a 16-0 run in the last 3:21, including three threes from Anthony Hickey, and held on late for their third straight SEC win, a 57-56 victory over Vanderbilt.
LSU (13-7, 4-5 SEC) shot just 36 percent from the floor, but held Vanderbilt (8-13, 2-7) to 31.6 percent shooting on the night. Hickey’s 14 points and 7 rebounds led the way for LSU, while Johnny O’Bryant joined him in double figures with 10 points and 5 rebounds. Charles Carmouche and Malik Morgan added nine apiece.
“Another grinder for us tonight,” LSU head coach Johnny Jones said after the game. “We knew coming in it would be that way.”
The two teams ground out a slow, hard-fought first 17 minutes of the game, as Vanderbilt crawled out to an 18-15 lead. LSU got nine points during that time from freshman Morgan, who scored the Tigers’ first seven points of the game.
“He’s gotten better each and every game,” teammate Andre Stringer, who added seven points, said of Morgan. “He was big for us today.”
Then, Hickey took over. After an 0-of-5 start from the field, the junior point guard swished one three and rolled in another, as the LSU press opened up some uncontested looks for the Tigers. LSU closed the half with a thunderous dunk from Andrew Del Piero off a nice feed from Morgan and a Hickey three at the buzzer to make it 31-18 for the home team at the break.
But after making just four field goals in the first half, Vanderbilt came out of the halftime lockerroom hotter, hitting as many shots in the first six minutes to pull within four. LSU answered back with jumpers from Hickey, O’Bryant, and a Carmouche three for an 11-point lead with 11 to play.
That lead would hover between six and ten points for much of the remainder of the half, but as the game wound down, it was Vanderbilt who made a late push. The Commodores pushed into a press of their own, throwing the LSU offense out of rhythm and kickstarting their own. Vanderbilt scored 12 points in the last 3:11, thanks to three Rod Odum three-pointers, to push the game to the wire.
LSU, however, did its part by making free throws down the stretch, connecting on six-of-eight attempts. O’Bryant’s final two with 7.7 seconds on the clock gave LSU a critical four-point advantage, all but negating Odum’s last-second 35-foot three for the final tally.
The win pushed LSU to within a game of .500 in SEC play, exactly halfway through the conference schedule, and it marked their fourth win in five games after an 0-4 start to the SEC slate.
“It just says a lot about what we’ve been talking about all year,” Stringer said afterward. “We are a team to be reckoned with and some things didn’t go our way early in the SEC. We also had some setbacks before the SEC started, but guys still remained the same. We are a family and play hard for each other. We always have each other’s backs. Even when we lose games, we still uplift each other. Every game we’ve had lately we are encouraging each other, and that’s why we’ve had this streak going.”
LSU now has five of its last nine games on the road, including three of its next four. Alabama is on tap for Saturday’s contest at 7 p.m., and South Carolina awaits next Thursday night at 6 p.m. The Tigers also have tough contests at Missouri and Tennessee and home to Ole Miss and Arkansas standing between them and a potential postseason berth.
“It’s going to be a grind,” Jones said, “just like the first nine.”
CLICK HERE for audio of Johnny Jones’ post game comments
CLICK HERE for audio of post game comments from LSU players Johnny O’Bryant, Anthony Hickey, Andre Stringer, and Malik Morgan