LSU beats up Vanderbilt with strong defense, wins in Nashville for first time in eight years

Matt McMahon's LSU Tigers won for the fourth time in its last five SEC games, improved to 8-8 in the SEC, and beat Vandy on the road for the first time in eight years on Saturday. Convincingly. PHOTO By LSU Athletics

Defense travels.

Don’t believe it?

Watch LSU’s 75-61 road win over Vanderbilt if you want proof, the Tigers first win against the Commodores in Nashville since January 2, 2016.

Jordan Wright, who spent four years playing at Vandy before transferring to LSU, scored 15 points and Jalen Reed came off the bench to score 13. The Tigers had five players in double figures.

But this game was won on defense for LSU.

“The shot making in the first half, due to the unselfish play, was fun to watch,” LSU coach Matt McMahon said. “But I thought it all started on the defensive end. Our guys were flying around the first 20 minutes. It was a really a solid defensive performance.”

Wright made 5 of 8 shots with a 3-pointer and all four of his free throws for the Tigers (16-13, 8-8 SEC). Wright also grabbed seven rebounds. Reed hit 4 of 6 from the floor with a 3-pointer and 4 of 6 at the foul line, adding six rebounds. Will Baker, Tyrell Ward and reserve Mike Williams III all scored 10 points.

Tyrin Lawrence had a game-high 21 points for Vanderbilt (8-21, 3-13), which fell behind 7-0 early and trailed the rest of the way. Ezra Manjon scored 17.

Wright had 11 points in the first 13:23 of the game for LSU. His three-point play gave the Tigers a 30-15 lead and they turned it into a 42-22 advantage at halftime. LSU shot 56% in the first 20 minutes and made 8 of 17 attempts from 3-point range (47%). Lawrence had 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting for Vanderbilt, while the rest of his teammates sank 4 of 19 shots. The Commodores missed all 12 of their 3-point attempts before halftime.

Lawrence made a 3-pointer and a layup around a basket by Manjon and Vanderbilt used a 14-7 run to begin the second half to pull within 49-36.

Reed answered with a 3-pointer for LSU, but the Commodores battled back to within 10 at 54-44 on JaQualon Roberts’ dunk off a rebound.

Vanderbilt again cut LSU’s lead to 10 at 62-52 with 4:58 to go, but Reed answered again, this time with a layup and then Hunter Dean had a monster put back, converting a dunk into a three-point play as the Tigers stayed comfortably in front down the stretch.

Overall, LSU shot 43.9%, made 10 of its 31 3-point shots and was 15 of 19 at the free-throw line. Vanderbilt shot 36.4%, made 3 of 21 from distance and 18 of 25 at the foul line.

LSU, winners of four out of its last five SEC games, played its best overall half of the season for the first 20 minutes.

In the first half, LSU hit eight 3’s and shot 54 percent from the field overall. Its suffocating defense completely stifled Vandy, which missed all 12 of its 3-point attempts.

With a 24-point positive differential at the three-point line, LSU found itself up 20 at intermission.

But in the second half, Vanderbilt made a run at LSU and the Tigers cooled off, making only two 3s in 14 tries.

With 3:41 to play, Vanderbilt had cut LSU’s lead down to 12 and was surging with momentum on its side.

Trae Hannibal had an open 10-foot baseline jumper clank off the rim. But Dean appeared out of nowhere, gathered in the rebound and two-hand slammed the ball, picking up the foul in the process. Dean finished off the and-one following a timeout to put LSU up, 67-52.

Dean’s two-hand flush put back was the biggest play of the second half.

LSU outrebounded Vanderbilt 41-29 and the Tigers’ bench had a 34-10 advantage over the Commodores.

LSU plays on Wednesday night at Arkansas at 6 PM central. Arkansas (14-15, 5-11) lost at Kentucky on Saturday, 111-102. LSU beat Arkansas in Baton Rouge on Feb. 3, 95-74, led by Baker’s 25 points and Jalen Cook’s 20.

Cook did not play again against Vanderbilt. Cook has now missed five games in a row with a lower leg injury.

If the SEC Tournament were to begin today, LSU would be the No. 7 seed and would open against Ole Miss.

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