For the fifth time this season, the LSU Tigers fall on the road, this time to the Vanderbilt Commodores. For the second straight road game, however, in a loss I was pleased with the Tigers efforts. Despite the fact that it was a 15 point final, it was much closer for most of the game. The Tigers went into the locker room with a tie at halftime, and for much of the second half it was only a 2 score deficit.
John Jenkins and Jeffrey Taylor, as mentioned in the gamethread, made the difference. It's not a surprise to anyone that the best players on the Vanderbilt team made the plays they needed to down the stretch. In a somewhat shocking occurrence, Jenkins actually missed 2 free throws, the same amount as he missed in the previous eight SEC games. However, it was only a minor victory as he buried two dagger three pointers with time winding down in the second half.
Festus Ezeli was probably the MVP for the game, as he was unstoppable in the second half for a long stretch. Whether he was getting fouled or getting a dunk, all Vanderbilt had to do was throw it his way and they were coming away with points or a chance for points. If not for his poor free throw shooting, it might have been a much worse game.
The story for LSU was both a few breakdowns on defense during key stretches, as well as extremely poor 3 point shooting. The Tigers finished with a dismal 3-21 night from 3. Hickey and Stringer combined to go 2-16 from 3 themselves, while Hickey was the only player to make those shots. There were also defensive lapses by both the guards and the forwards as both Taylor and Jenkins hit back to back 3's each at different time to add cushion to the Vanderbilt leads.
All is not lost for the Tigers. Alabama is still coming to Baton Rouge on Saturday, and I don't think I need to point out the importance of that game. Whether it helps us get to the NCAA's, NIT, or simply to eliminate bad memories, it's an absolutely key game.