LSU closed out the PMAC in dominant fashion, beating Vanderbilt 83-68 and clinched a top-four finish in the SEC plus a double-bye for next week’s SEC Tournament in Nashville.
LSU’s one of the SEC’s best while Vanderbilt is sitting dead last and the play showed that. LSU never trailed Tuesday, once Cam Thomas gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead 27 seconds into the game Vanderbilt would be playing catch up all night long.
But by the time Vanderbilt got on the board it was far too late. LSU was already up 9-0 by the time Vanderbilt scored its first basket and in a blink the game was out of hand at 17-3.
LSU was dominant in the first half, shooting nearly 60 percent from the floor and led by 22 at the break. The second half was a complete formality. Vanderbilt outscored LSU by seven in the half but that wasn’t anywhere close enough to overcome the Tigers’ scoring advantage.
Cam Thomas once again cracked 20 points, scoring 23, Trendon Watford scored 14, and Javonte Smart scored 12. But the most welcome sight from Tuesday was a great Darius Days game.
Days broke out of his 0-8 shooting slump he had against Arkansa scoring 15 points and hit three three-pointers; he wound up stuffing the stat sheet, grabbing 10 rebounds and handed out four assists in addition to the 15 points.
LSU was unusually dominant on the glass, out-rebounding Vanderbilt 51-29. Not only did Days grab 10 boards, Cam Thomas had a career-best 10 rebonds and Trendon Watford had a season-high 13.
Tuesday also saw some quality play from freshman point guard Jalen Cook. In just 10 minutes off the bench, Cook scored five points—including draining a corner three—grabbed two assists, a rebound and a steal. Cook played some stellar defense and completely locked up Vandy’s Jordan Wright on the Commodores final possession of the first half.
Defense has long been a sore spot for LSU this season, but Tuesday night the Tigers were terrific. LSU held Vanderbilt to 38 percent shooting overall and 29 percent from three. But LSU could stand to improve on defending while not fouling, both Smart and Days each picked up four fouls. That could doom the Tigers against better competition.
The win snaps a two-game losing streak and ensures LSU’s first game in the conference tournament will be in the quarterfinal round next Friday inside Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
“We needed this win,” Trendon Watford said simply. That they did and it was wonderful seeing LSU play with that sense of urgency. Next up for LSU is the long awaited road trip to Missouri Saturday afternoon.