Now that was more like it.
LSU shook off two weeks of demons and absolutely housed Vanderbilt in the PMAC. No messing around, no blown leads or scoring lulls, just a thoroughly dominant performance from a group that badly needed it.
The Tigers were crisp, and with the exception of Shavon Coleman, every player contributed one of their best games this season. That kind of all-around efficiency will be necessary with Missouri up next.
But there's no doubt the story of this game starts and ends with Johnny O'Bryant III. Something just seemed off about the guy since the calendar flipped to 2014. Saturday night, that switch flipped back on. The All-SEC candidate was back.
Practically from the opening tip, O'Bryant was calling for the ball, furiously crashing the boards and refusing to be slowed by the myriad of defenses the Dores threw at him. Plainly put, it was his best game of this season. I mean, he had a double-double by HALFTIME en route to 22 points and 12 rebounds. That's the JOB that LSU will need if it is to make a serious push for significant postseason play.
The energy O'Bryant brought was infectious, nowhere more so than on the boards. The Tigers doubled up Vandy rebounding 48-24, finally reversing its recent glasswork woes in a nearly unprecedented way. At the half, LSU was tripling up Vanderbilt on the glass, 30-10. There's too much size and athleticism to keep getting outrebounded and Saturday just showed what they're capable of when they play with fire.
But let's pump the brakes a little here. Vanderbilt is ultimately a .500 team this year, playing on the road with less than 48 hours rest and only seven scholarship players. LSU was desperate, playing in front of a good crowd and spilling the tank. It will be hard to bottle this up.
On the other hand, Vandy has played everyone close this season and hell, LSU struggled more with some in-state schools than it did with the Dores. The Tigers grabbed control of the game mid-way through the first half and never relinquished it. No one, not Butler, Kentucky, Texas, Providence or Saint Louis - all solid to good teams that beat VU in tight games - can say that. LSU took the fight out of them.
On a day when so many other top-tier SEC squads either fell to inferior foes (Arkansas, Texas A&M) or needed everything in the bag down the stretch (Florida, Ole Miss), LSU took care of business. That just feels nice to say after the exasperation of the past few weeks.
So now the task only gets taller. The Tigers need the complete performance against the Dores to be a springboard for more. A huge stretch awaits, with Missouri, Alabama and Kentucky on the docket in the next 10 days. Those are three of the six best RPI wins in the league, and UK and Mizzou are legitimate resume builders for NCAA hopefuls. Taking two out of three is a must, especially with Missouri and Big Blue both coming to the PMAC.
For now, the desperation has been tempered. But if desperation makes LSU play like it did Saturday, then Johnny Jones needs to emphasize every game as an utter must-win. In reality, the Vandy victory made sure we haven't reached that point just yet.