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Vanderbilt beats LSU 96-89 in SEC basketball opener

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Vanderbilt beats LSU 96-89 in SEC basketball opener

Photo by Bosley Jarrett

Photo by Bosley Jarrett

Photo by Bosley Jarrett

Photo by Bosley Jarrett

Will Wilson

The Vanderbilt Commodores beat the LSU Tigers 96-89 in a three-point shootout on Thursday on the first day of conference play in the SEC.

It was Vanderbilt’s first win against LSU since February 8, 2012.

The two teams made a combined total of 33 out of 60 three-point attempts. Both teams also shot 50% from the field and from beyond the arc. The major difference was Vanderbilt’s ability to get points off of turnovers, outscoring LSU by 12 points in that category.

Vanderbilt started the game on defense in a 2-3 zone, then quickly switched to man-to-man defense after LSU passed the ball into open threes. The change did not work though, as LSU made five of their first eight attempts from downtown.

On the other side of the ball, the Commodores hit six of their first 10 three-point attempts. They were led by guard Matthew Fisher-Davis, who scored 14 points, including a trifecta of three-pointers before the 10-minute mark in the first half.

The Commodores switched back to their 2-3 zone defense, which was successful in forcing eight LSU turnovers and added 13 points off turnovers in the first half. Vanderbilt only had four first half turnovers, and that positive turnover margin helped them go on a 20-5 run late in the first half. At the peak of Vanderbilt’s run, they had a 16-point lead.

LSU guards Brandon Sampson and Antonio Blakeney made a combined three three-pointers and scored 15 points in a 17-2 run of their own to bring the Tigers to within a single point at the end of the first half. Vanderbilt guard Nolan Cressler made a buzzer-beating layup to bring the first half score to 45-42 in favor of the Commodores.  

By the end of the half, both teams were shooting very well. They each shot at least 50% of shots from the field, at least 50% from the three-point line, and over 85% from the free throw line. Blakeney and Fisher-Davis led their respective teams in points with 14 for each.

In the second half, Vanderbilt’s great shooting and LSU’s turnovers continued. In the first five minutes of the half, the Tigers made four of five from the field and Vanderbilt made four of six three-pointers. LSU also turned the ball over five times in the first five minutes, conceding 10 points as a result. The Commodores only had one turnover in the same span, and the disparity in the category allowed Vanderbilt to extend its lead to 11.

An ensuing 10-0 run by the Commodores brought their lead up to 20 points halfway through the second half. Guard Joe Toye scored eight points in the process on two threes and a dunk. At this point, Vanderbilt had 30 points off of turnovers, tripling what LSU had in the same category.

LSU quickly bounced back with four threes from Wayde Sims on a 20-7 run, which brought the Commodore lead down to six. Vanderbilt guard Riley LaChance ended the run with a fade-away three-pointer with three minutes left in the game. A Blakeney three-pointer in the final minute brought LSU to within 4 points, but that was the closest that LSU would get as Vanderbilt would pull away with garbage-time free throws.

Fisher-Davis and LaChance scored in the twenties for Vanderbilt, while forward Luke Kornet, guard Payton Willis and Cressler also scored in double-digits.

Blakeney finished with 24 points, and Sims, Sampson, guard Skylar Mays, and Jalyn Patterson finish with double digits for LSU as well.

With the win, Vanderbilt moves to 7-6 on the season and 1-0 in conference play. The Commodores will continue SEC play against Auburn at home on January 4th. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 P.M. central on SEC Network.

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