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GAMETHREAD: Vanderbilt at LSU; 8 pm, ESPNU

Make no mistake about it, the Dores should be a challenge. LSU's margin for error is gone. Perhaps being back in the PMAC can revive the downtrodden Tigers.

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It's desperation time. LSU hosts a shortmanned Vanderbilt squad tonight in the PMAC and, quite simply, 1-3 in the SEC is not an option.

Lost in the Tigers brutal OT loss in Oxford on Wednesday was the fact that, as a whole, LSU played maybe its best game of 2014. Not that there were many strong contenders. Still, the last six minutes against the Rebels were enough to obliterate any positive takeaways.

It also has LSU behind the 8-ball in almost every way and any hopes of changing that starts with a win against the Dores. Vandy was almost certainly headed for an 0-3 start to conference play, until it wasn't. The Commodores made 12 3-pointers (out of 32, but still) en route to a tight win over Mizzou on Thursday night at home.

That short turnaround plays right into LSU's hands. With less than two days rest, a long road trip, the fact that Vandy is down to seven scholarship players and the Tigers needing a win something fierce, it's hard to imagine the Dores holding up for 40 minutes. However, Vandy's been feisty, even in defeat.

They lost at Butler in overtime, fell by six at Texas, dropped its conference opener by a handful at Alabama, only lost to Kentucky by nine and led a good Saint Louis squad most of the game before losing, 57-49. This has all the makings of a frustratingly tight game, even if LSU comes out firing.

And there should be no reason for any lethargy from the Tigers. Johnny O'Bryant III and Jordan Mickey should be ballhogs inside after perhaps the worst games of their Tiger careers. O'Bryant, in particular, better bring it. Vandy is starting freshman and Scotlandville High product Damian Jones at center along with a couple career reserves at the forward spots. This is a game for JOB to reassert himself as one of the SEC's elite players after looking lost since the holidays.

There's still time for LSU to right this ship. Maybe this is similar to last season, when the Tigers looked fine in the non-conference but struggled mightily to start league play before absolutely turning it on for the final two months. The Tigers need this game to be a kickstarter, and not just for the record's sake. LSU needs to look the part of a contender, inspiring confidence in themselves and from the fanbase. Otherwise, the ship that is this season could be lost to sea.