BATON ROUGE - The LSU men's basketball team fended off a late rally and picked up its third straight victory, a 57-56 decision over Vanderbilt Wednesday at the Maravich Center.
In the process, LSU (13-7, 4-5 SEC) ended a seven-game losing streak to the Commodores (8-13, 2-7 SEC) which dated back to the 2005-06 season. The Tigers also won their second consecutive one-point decision in SEC play for the first time since the 1981-82 campaign when LSU defeated Georgia (54-53) and Auburn (69-68).
Anthony Hickey turned in another solid all-around effort with 14 points and equaled a career-high seven rebounds to go along with five assists. He extended his run to 12 straight outings with double figures dating back to the UC Irvine on December 18.
Johnny O'Bryant III chipped in 10 points and five rebounds. He had his streak of five consecutive double-doubles come to a close.
Vanderbilt's Rod Odom poured in 17 of his career-high 20 points during the second half. He canned a trio of three-pointers inside the final 27 seconds and nearly brought the Commodores back from a seven-point hole.
Baton Rouge native Dai-Jon Parker and Kedren Johnson garnered complete performances for Vandy. Parker secured 11 points, nine rebounds and four assists whereas Johnson notched seven points, five assists and four rebounds.
LSU connected for a 36 percent shooting ratio (18-of-50) compared to a 31.5 percent clip (17-of -54) for the Commodores. Nine of LSU's 18 field goals were from three-point territory.
After starting the game shooting 4-for-20, LSU buried seven consecutive field goals and finished the opening half with a 16-point flurry over the last 3:21. The Tigers turned a three-point deficit into a 31-18 halftime advantage.
Hickey buried a deep three-ball to ignite the spurt and an Andrew Del Piero lay-up off a putback gave LSU a 20-18 edge. The Tigers stretched their lead to eight points after Hickey and Carmouche knocked down back-to-back triples 23 seconds apart.
Del Piero kept the momentum with the Purple and Gold after a thunderous two-handed dunk, and Hickey nailed another three-pointer as the first half buzzer sounded to make it 31-18. During the opening half, LSU's defense limited the Commodores to only a quartet of field goals.
Vanderbilt pieced together 13 of the first 17 points over the first 7:00 of the second half to draw back to 35-31. The Tigers answered with Hickey and O'Bryant III jumpers followed by a Carmouche triple to surge back ahead 42-31 at the 10:10 mark.
Down 51-44 with 3:11 to go, the Commodores made one final charge behind a quartet of three-pointers. Odom accounted for three of the triples during the last 27 seconds, including one from 30-feet away at the buzzer for the final margin of 57-56.
LSU connected for 6-of-8 at the foul line inside the final 1:22. With the score 55-53, O'Bryant III calmly sank two critical free throws with 7.7 seconds on the clock to make it a two-possession game.
The Tigers return to the road Saturday for the first of two meetings with Alabama over a 14-day span. Tip time is slated for 7 p.m. CT from Coleman Coliseum, and the game will carried live by ESPN2. An online version of the telecast will be available via www.WatchESPN.com and the Watch ESPN app.
LSU's next home game will be Saturday, Feb. 16 as Mississippi State visits the Maravich Center. The program will honor the 60-year anniversary of the 1953 Final Four team. Tickets can be purchased online at www.LSUtix.net or by calling the LSU Athletics Ticket Office at (225) 578-2184.
The LSU Sports Radio Network also will broadcast the game on Eagle 98.1 FM in the Baton Rouge area and inside the Geaux Zone at www.LSUsports.net/live. Jim Hawthorne, Ricky Blanton and Kevin Ford will call the action.
For all of the latest news and information on Tiger basketball, visit www.lsusports.net/basketball. Fans can also follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsubasketball along with @lsubasketball on Twitter.
LSU HEAD COACH JOHNNY JONES
"It was another really fun basketball game for our fans but another grinder for us tonight. I knew coming in it would be that way. If you look at Vanderbilt's record, I think a lot of the things they have gong through especially in conference play are a lot like us. They are only a few positions away from putting themselves into situation in which their record would look totally different. They played really quality teams in Kentucky - losing by only two there at home and losing by four to Alabama. They lost by only one at Tennessee and went into overtime at Ole Miss. All of those teams are really quality teams that have played tough. I knew we would have a tough ball game in front of us tonight. I thought our guys did an excellent job in the first half of building a lead, playing well defensively and holding (Vanderbilt) to only 19 percent shooting from the field. In the second half, I thought they did a great job of being poised. (Vanderbilt) made a run late in the second half. However, I thought our guys did a great job down the stretch knocking down free throws to be able to seal the win, especially Johnny (O'Bryant III) there with his two late in the game."
On controlling the tempo of the game...
"The good thing is I thought we really allowed Vanderbilt to control the tempo in the first half. In the last four or five minutes, we jumped into our press. We went on a nice little run and went into the locker room with a little cushion, forcing them to play a little faster than they wanted to. In the second half, I thought more of the same. (Vanderbilt) came back out and made some really good plays early. Late, we had to jump back in our press. I thought we did in a timely fashion and made some plays as well. (Vanderbilt) was poised at the end and made some big threes. Unfortunately, they took some tough shots. We didn't get our hands on the 50/50 balls, and they got some second-chance opportunities which forced us to have to knock down those free-throws late in the game."
On the remainder of the conference season...
"There are a couple of teams. You look at Florida, I think Florida is a great basketball team. They had a setback last night, but they are a type of team that can get their troops back and really get going. I think Missouri is really good. I think Kentucky is playing better and continuing to improve. I think it's going to be a grind just like the first nine games we have played in conference play. I think we will have more of the same in the second half. We have a little bit better feel of where we are, the teams we've competed against and what to expect. I think everyone has a scouting report now on the people that they are going to play and have to really compete against. That is going to be important for us. I told our guys prior to the season starting that you have to make sure you come ready to compete and play as hard as you possibly can to give yourself a chance. We have been fortunate to do that. We have given ourselves a chance. We've had some success in several games. We are fortunate in four of the last five games some things have happened for us."
"It's always good to get a win, but obviously we didn't play as well as we usually do. We can play better."
"It just shows the type of team we have to be in some close games and win," O'Bryant said. "We just believe we can win every game."
LSU PLAYER QUOTES
Guard Andre Stringer
On their last few games...
"It just says a lot about what we've been talking about all year. We are a team to be reckoned with and some things didn't go our way early in the SEC. We also had some setbacks before the SEC started, but guys still remained the same. We are a family and play hard for each other. We always have each other's backs. Even when we lose games, we still uplift each other. Every game we've had lately we are encouraging each other, and that's why we've had this streak going."
On his shooting...
"My teammates kept me confident even though I didn't hit any shots early, they kept telling me to keep shooting. I was able to get a few good looks and made a couple."
Guard Malik Morgan
On Vanderbilt's defensive presence...
"They had a lot of length. We have guys who can take people off of their dribble and shoot from the outside. They backed off of us a little bit using their length. They have a lot of guys who are 6-foot plus so it was hard to get around the long arms and get good opportunities."
On the end of the game...
"They hit some shots and we lost some of their shooters. Coach just said to get shut outs and take one possession at a time. You know you'll make some mistakes on defense and we made a couple, but we made up for it in the end. Johnny (O'Bryant) made a couple of free throws down the stretch and we got a couple stops late in the game."
Vanderbilt Head Coach Quotes
On tonight's performance and loss to LSU...
"We stopped guarding and we still had chances. But our guys hung in there and almost gave us a chance to win the ballgame. We just don't do enough things right. That's all there it is to it and maybe that makes us a bad team. I don't know, but we just don't do enough things right. We let them get going from the three in the first half and just stood there and looked at them shoot. We just don't have enough margin for two or three guys to not be solid or good. I didn't even know if we had two or three guys that were even good tonight. We had several who weren't. But I guess they are trying hard. It is just very frustrating to me. We were coming back. We got in the game. We were stopping them, and one of our veteran players gets switched off on their best shooting guard, Andre Stringer, who shoots 40 percent. He (Stringer) comes off the down screen and shoots an open three and we just sit there and watch him swish a three. Then we start pressing. We needed a five-second count or deflection. Two different times we have two different guys literally let LSU players step to the ball and catch the ball. I apparently need to do a better job of teaching. When you are desperate and there are 25 seconds to go or ten seconds to go and your desperate, I don't know how to teach desperation better than I am teaching it. It is pretty frustrating right now."
On the last three minutes of the ballgame...
"There are a lot of things that are frustrating, and these guys are trying to do the best they can. I have said a lot of times that you can't give guy's a vision. We had guys standing wide open when we are coming down the court on the same side of the ball, and we are looking and going to the other side for some reason. We get two points out of 40 minutes from our "five" man, and that's not good enough. Not just them. Our guard play just wasn't good enough. Rod made some shots late. Hopefully that will carry over."
On explaining the call of the possession arrow...
"Apparently, it didn't make any sense to me. I am going to check on it tomorrow. I hope they are right about it because I don't want to get in trouble. I'll get in trouble if they are wrong, and I am going to get a call from the SEC office. I have to check on it first. We get tied up on a held ball, and it is their ball. Apparently the ball was kicked as it was thrown in bounds. The possession arrow can't change on a violation. To me the possession arrow would have already changed. That's why they got the ball. So that was the explanation I was given."
Vanderbilt Player Quotes
G Dai-Jon Parker
On playing in front of his hometown fans...
"It's always exciting to come home period. I don't get to come back and experience this atmosphere a lot. It was good to come back and it was good to come back and play well for my teammates."
On staying close until the end...
"We just didn't get back in transition. That's what we've been practicing all week. That's what we're coached to do. Some players lost focus and they got open shots. They were knocking down more open shots than we did."
On Vanderbilt Head Coach Kevin Stallings scripting plays in the second half...
"He was playing to our strengths. He was playing to who had the hot hands. They had weak tendencies on defense so we were just trying to attack their defense and do what we're coached to do."
On closing the lead in the second half...
"We were really close. Some shots don't fall our way but we kept fighting and asking for a prayer at the end."
On the upcoming three-game home stretch...
"It's good to not travel but I think this is a good stretch for us to buckle down and do what we're supposed to do, play how we're supposed to play and play how we were coached. This will be a good stretch for us in these three home games and we need to have fun doing it."