GAME NOTES: The LSU Tigers will tip off a two-game homestand at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Saturday night when they tangle with the Vanderbilt Commodores in an SEC showdown.
Vanderbilt opened up SEC action with back-to-back losses against Alabama (68-63) and Kentucky (71-62) before reaching the win column with an impressive 78-75 home victory over Missouri on Thursday night. The triumph allowed the Commodores to improve to 9-6 on the season, although they are still 0-3 on the road.
LSU is also off to a slow start in league play at 1-2, with it falling on the wrong end of an overtime decision at Ole Miss on Wednesday night, 88-74. The Tigers have lost three of their last four overall to slide to 10-5 on the campaign, but things are looking up in their return to the Maravich Center, where they've gone 6-2.
In regards to the all-time series, Vanderbilt holds a 60-48 advantage over the Tigers. LSU had lost seven in a row against the Commodores prior to last season's 57-56 home victory.
The Commodores built up a 12-point first-half lead over Missouri only to see it disappear early in the second stanza, but after surging ahead by seven with 10:52 left thanks a 10-2 run, they never trailed again. They shot only 39 percent from the field but managed to drain 12 3-pointers and helped themselves on defense by holding Missouri to 39.1 percent from the floor. Rod Odom shined with 24 points (on 6-of-13 from beyond the arc), eight rebounds and four blocks, Kyle Fuller was also outstanding with 22 points and five assists, while Dai-Jon Parker (11 points, six assists) and Damian Jones (10 points, eight rebounds) rounded out the strong effort.
On the season, Vanderbilt shoots an impressive 46.2 percent from the field while holding opponents to only 40.8 percent shooting, but its scoring margin only sits at +2.8 since it levels the playing field by committing 3.3 more turnovers per contest than it forces. Leading scorer Eric McClellan (14.3 ppg) was dismissed from the team a few weeks back for violating academic policy, and in his absence Odom (13.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg), Fuller (11.3 ppg) and Jones (11.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg) have all stepped up their play.
LSU had a back-and-forth battle with Ole Miss earlier in the week, as the contest had nine ties and 17 lead changes, but in the overtime period Ole Miss dominated, outscoring LSU, 19-5, en route to the victory. It shot just 36.9 percent from the floor in the setback, including only 8-of-26 from 3-point range, and was hindered by a game-high 15 turnovers. Andre Stringer provided a spark off the bench with 23 points on 5-of-8 from beyond the arc, Shavon Coleman tallied 15 points and seven rebounds, Anthony Hickey registered 11 points and seven assists and Jarell Martin put up 14 points and seven boards.
Despite their struggles of late, the Tigers have been impressive overall this season, as they outshoot their opponents from the floor, 44.3 percent to 38.6 percent, for a +6.7 scoring margin. The team's strength comes in the frontcourt, where Johnny O'Bryant III (13.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and Jordan Mickey (13.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 3.7 bpg) both shoot greater than 50 percent from the field. Stringer (12.1 ppg) is the only other player in double figures, but Martin (9.0 ppg), Hickey (8.7 ppg) and Coleman (8.6 ppg) can all be relied on for regular contributions.
Vanderbilt's stellar win early in the week has surely given it some confidence heading into this matchup, but it has been an inferior squad on the road this season, which gives the advantage to LSU to get back on track.
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