BATON ROUGE -- Four LSU players reached double-figures, and the 23rd-ranked Lady Tigers held No. 20 Vanderbilt to its lowest point total ever as LSU claimed its 200th all-time Southeastern Conference victory by a score of 55-39 in a Women's Basketball Coaches Association "Pink Zone Game" on Thursday night at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
The Lady Tigers (18-7, 7-6 SEC) won their third straight SEC game by a double-digit margin and jumped from sixth to a tie for fourth place with Vanderbilt and Georgia in the league standings. The top four teams receive a first round bye in the SEC Tournament that begins March 4 in Duluth, Ga.
"What a win tonight," LSU head coach Van Chancellor said. "I've been in here all year long down in the dumps, but to win a game like we won tonight and not give up but 39 points is really big. We've been talking to our team over the last two weeks that we had to fight through those tough times. We started doubling ball screens, and that was a great defensive adjustment for us. To hold them to 39 points was a great job for our team."
The Commodores (18-8, 7-6) lost for just the second time in the past six games. Vanderbilt had never scored under 40 points in its history dating back to 1977. The Commodores previous low score in a game was 42 points at Michigan last season. The lowest point total in its series with LSU was 46 in 1998.
LSU became just the third team in history to win 200 SEC games, joining Tennessee and Georgia. The Lady Tigers are 200-127 all-time in conference games.
LSU recognized breast cancer awareness on Thursday night with a "Parade of Survivors" celebration at halftime. The Lady Tigers also donned white uniforms with pink trim and pink shoelaces.
Katherine Graham led the way with 15 points and nine rebounds, one shy of a double-double. Graham was recognized prior to the game for just the third triple-double in LSU history in her last home game against Ole Miss. Allison Hightower added 13 points and LaSondra Barrett scored 11 points and dished out a career-high seven assists.
"They ran their matchup, and any time Allison (Hightower) went through, they played her man, and when she caught the ball, everybody in the world was on her," Chancellor said. "I thought all the players did a great job or countering that. (Katherine) Graham gave us some points early. Then, (LaSondra) Barrett and Jones gave us some. I thought Destini Hughes' defense was really good tonight."
LSU, which snapped a three-game home losing streak, held the Commodores to 37.0 percent shooting for the game. Vanderbilt, one of the nation's top 3-point shooting teams, finished just 2-of-12 from beyond the arc and had entered the game averaging 71.9 points per contest.
The Lady Tigers led by as many as 11 points in the first half following a Barrett 3-pointer at the 12:24 mark. However, the Commodores rallied to within a point in the final minutes of the half via a 15-5 run that spanned over eight minutes. Elan Brown's jumper cut the deficit to 23-22. Barrett's layup gave LSU a 27-24 lead into the locker room.
LSU would outscore Vanderbilt, 28-15, in the second half. The Lady Tigers amassed a 13-4 run to close the game. Courtney Jones' turnaround shot made it 44-35 and Graham and Hightower followed with back-to-back buckets with less than six minutes to play.
Vanderbilt's only two field goals in the final eight minutes came at the 5:35 and 25 second marks, respectively. Jence Rhoads finished with a team-high 12 points.
LSU heads to Knoxville, Tenn., to take on No. 5 Tennessee in a special 6 p.m. CT Monday tip in Thompson-Boling Arena. The game will be televised live by ESPN2.
LSU HEAD COACH VAN CHANCELLOR
"What a win tonight. I've been in here all year long down in the dumps, but to win a game like we won tonight and not give up but 39 points is really big.
"It was a great night for us. We started out and are up 18-9. We're rolling, and then we have a little lull, and they come back on us. We were only up three at halftime, and that really worried us because that's that little segment where things are going bad and has kind of haunted us all year. We've been talking to our team over the last two weeks that we had to fight through those tough times. We come back out in the second half, and we found some things offensively that when we changed our defense, we had been sliding good on ball screens. We started doubling ball screens, and that was a great defensive adjustment for us. To hold them to 39 points was a great job for our team. I thought Courtney Jones off the bench was outstanding and Destini Hughes. I thought Swayze Black gave us some good minutes, but I thought Destini and Courtney were outstanding tonight."
On if he looks at the SEC standings going into a game like this...
"My nerves were about as bad tonight before the game as they've been in coaching in a long time. Usually I've gotten to an age where it doesn't bother me, but I just thought this game was what I call a flip-flop game. Right now, our records are not the same. It says we're the same, but in the tie-breaker, you're not the same. Now, I think we have a much more difficult schedule to play than Vanderbilt. Arkansas is red-hot. Tennessee is doing good, and Mississippi State is a bear to play. We got ourselves into a position right now. I just thought this was a must-win for us NCAA-wise."
On having four players in double figures tonight...
"They just did a great job. They ran their matchup, and any time Allison (Hightower) went through, they played her man, and when she caught the ball, everybody in the world was on her. I thought all the players did a great job or countering that. (Katherine) Graham gave us some points early. Then, (LaSondra) Barrett and Jones gave us some. I thought Destini Hughes' defense was really good tonight."
LSU PLAYER QUOTES
G Katherine Graham
On her fast start ...
"I knew that they would put a lot of pressure on trying to stop Allison (Hightower). She is good at finding the open player when they double team her. Coming in coach told me that I have a shot. It was just a lot of moving, a lot of motion and a lot of screening to get open. There was just a lot of motion I was just the one that got the shots."
On if it is important to have a good team performance over a good individual performance ...
"We definitely would take team effort any day over good individual statistics or anything because that is how you beat good teams like Vanderbilt in the SEC. One person is never going to beat an entire team. All of us chipped in offensively and defensively and that was the difference."
G Allison Hightower
On how important it was to be able to make-up some ground in the SEC with the win ...
"Coach was talking about that but that was not in the back of my mind at all. We just wanted to come and get the win at home. We wanted to reclaim our house back. We owed it to our fans, our families, and everyone who comes out here and supports us. It was good to go out there and get this win."
On how fast they jumped out
"We just came out and executed. We just wanted to be patient on offense and know that they would always be aggressive. We knew if we were patient and we cut, screened and moved we would get open looks, and we did."
On how they were able to maintain composure when Vanderbilt started to come back ...
"I think when the pressure got on us a little bit we started to get undisciplined and got away from what we were told to do. We had to lock back in mentally and follow the game plan and do what the coaches were telling us. We had to keep fighting on offense and defense."
On what has been different during the three-game winning streak ...
"I thought that we had great team effort. People came off the bench and stepped up. We had great team defense. This win was just an overall great team effort with hustle plays like loose balls and rebounds. We wanted to make sure we out hustled them and had more effort than they did."
VANDERBILT HEAD COACH MELANIE BALCOMB
Opening Statement ...
"LSU did a good job of denying and taking us out of our timing. We had a ton of turnovers and didn't execute well. I think in the second half we got good looks, but when we got them we didn't make them."
On the defensive strategy against LSU...
"We just had to do what we do. Our goal was to keep them under 50 because the last time we played them we held them to 47. We didn't do a bad job because they only managed 55, and they average 67. I don't think we did a great job defensively. We wanted to contain their big three, and at halftime they had 24 of their 27 points. We wanted to keep Hightower down and limit her touches and keep the ball away from the inside because that's where we're really small right now."
On Vanderbilt's offensive strategy in the second half ...
"We did a lot of spreading the floor with some four-out and five-out stuff we've been working on. I think what worked the best were ball screens, so we ran a lot of those. We never got back-doors, which we should get when we're denied. We also never got any offensive rebounds. I mean we had five offensive rebounds and three of them were by our point guard. If you never get any second chance points, then it's going to kill you."
On Katherine Graham ...
"Katherine is smart and has good size. I noticed her assist-to-turnover ratio is very good. We wanted to force some turnovers from (Latear) Eason and (Destini) Hughes knowing that Graham was not going to turn it over for them. She's been very steady, hitting wide-open shots and making good decisions. I think Graham is playing very well for them, and she is the most improved player I've seen from this team from last year."