1. The game against LSU called for the return of Nashville native and Tigers head coach Will Wade. Wade, who grew up a Commodore fan and frequented basketball games at Memorial Gym as a youth, attended Franklin Road Academy prior to attending college at Clemson University. From there, Wade spent several years at his alma mater as a graduate assistant and director of basketball operations under head coach Oliver Purnell. After stops at Harvard and VCU, Wade returned to his home state to coach UT-Chattanooga for two seasons before returning to Richmond to coach VCU to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances, prior to taking the job in Baton Rouge. At 34, Wade is considered to be one of the rising stars throughout the coaching ranks and has shown so far with a 102-51 overall record and 11-6 start in his first year at LSU.
2. The defensive effort from Vanderbilt hasn’t always been the best this season. Coming into today the Commodores ranked last in the SEC in field goal percentage defense, blocked shots and were 181st in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom.com. But the Commodores came out with a purpose this afternoon holding LSU to 1 for 10 shooting over the first five minutes of the game. Sophomore center Djery Baptiste played an early role, blocking two shots and altering a few others. The loss of seven-footer Luke Kornet has been seen on the offensive end, but probably more notably on the defensive end of the floor. For the half, Vanderbilt held LSU to 36 percent shooting and 2 of 8 from three.
3. A week ago in this building, Riley LaChance was fouled on a three-point shot that just caromed off the rim with 30 seconds to play against Kentucky. Down four, LaChance, an 89 percent free-throw shooter, missed all three attempts ending any hopes at a Commodore comeback. In the press conference following the game when asked whether he was worried about LaChance’s confidence moving forward, head coach Bryce Drew said that LaChance and anyone who wants to be a part of his program has no choice but to play with confidence. Well, LaChance certainly didn’t let those missed shots affect him in the first half today, even after only scoring 5 at Mississippi State on Tuesday night. LaChance 15 points on 6 of 10 shooting, including 3 for 4 from three. For the game, LaChance scored a team-high 26 on 8 of 14 shooting and was a perfect 6 for 6 from the line.
4. The key for Vanderbilt every night is three-point shooting, as they sit second in the SEC in makes in conference play (51). In the first half, the Commodores knocked down 5 of 10 from behind the arc but surprisingly struggled from the charity stripe, only making one of their five attempts. Vanderbilt turned the free-throw shooting around in the second half, shooting 19 of 25 in the half, finishing 20-30 for the game.
5. It was the Jeff Roberson Show to start the second half. The senior forward scored Vandy’s first nine points out of the break and outscored LSU 9-2 in a 2:14 span. LaChance’s fourth three of the day gave Vandy a 46-30 lead, but a free throw and a pair of steals finished by dunks cut the lead back to 46-35, prompting a Bryce Drew timeout with 16:05 in the game. LaChance missed a three that would’ve put Vandy up 19 and surely would’ve called for a Wade timeout. Instead, the Commodores gave momentum back to the Tigers on two careless errors. Roberson on the afternoon scored 20 points and grabbed six rebounds.
6. Following the consecutive steals leading to dunks, LSU continued to ratchet up the full-court pressure, cutting Vanderbilt’s lead down to 56-52 with 9:17 in the game. Tremont Waters’ steal and assist to Duop Reath put LSU within two and into the double bonus with 8:55 to play.
7. Vanderbilt went 5:09 between field goals and was fortunate to be up six after Saben Lee’s layup ended the drought. Four free throws, a pair from Lee and LaChance each, helped preserve the Commodore lead at 62-56 despite the poor shooting. LSU only went on an 8-4 run during that time.
8. Vanderbilt led 62-56 with 5:35 to play, LSU used a 9-2 run, capped by a Reath layup, to take their first, and only, lead of the game with 2:21 to play in the game. Reath was a force insider all afternoon, scoring a career-high 31 points on 13 of 20 shooting and grabbing 13 rebounds.
9. Roberson and LaChance carried Vanderbilt throughout the afternoon. Lee, who focused most of his energy containing Waters—fouling out with 7 points on 3 of 12 shooting—scored only two points in the first half and was held scoreless until hitting a pair of free throws with 6:49 to play. Lee would go on to score 10 of Vanderbilt’s last 18 points to close out a much needed 77-71 victory.
10. The final five minutes of games have given Vanderbilt trouble all year long, today they were able to maintain their six-point lead going into the final stretch by matching LSU 15-15. The Commodores move to 7-12 overall and 2-5 in the SEC. The win should go a ways in restoring the confidence of this team as they hope to recreate the magic of the final half of last season that found them in the NCAA Tournament as a 15-loss at-large—the first of its kind. Next up is a trip to Knoxville to face archrival Tennessee who won 92-84 earlier in Nashville.