Tigers end road skid, beat Vandy

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — LSU halted a road losing streak that had reached seven games.

Barely, though.

And only after five times trying to stitch together a rally.

With three minutes left, the Tigers used a 6-0 run to pull ahead for good of the fast-starting but cold-shooting Vanderbilt Commodores in a 57-51 victory Thursday at Memorial Gymnasium.

Johnny O’Bryant III racked up 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Andre Stringer added 11 points off the bench for the Tigers. Shavon Coleman added nine points, and his final pair were the difference.

The senior sank a pair of free throws with 3:02 left to put the Tigers in front 51-49, and O’Bryant extended the lead to four points a little over a minute later with a step-back jumper at the top of the key.

Perhaps, too, LSU (18-11, 9-8 Southeastern Conference) can hold up its victory over the Commodores (15-14, 7-10) as testament to its resolve.

After allowing Vandy to take a 16-point first-half lead, the Tigers cut the deficit to eight points at halftime, and then used the first four minutes of the second half to pull within a lone bucket.

After Jordan Mickey hit a jumper on the left wing to pull LSU within in 37-35, neither the Tigers nor the Commodores connected for another five minutes.

Eight minutes later, LSU again tried to mount a spurt to seize the lead.

O’Bryant hit a turnaround jumper on the right block, and a trip later Jarell Martin drove by Shelby Moats for a layup to inch the Tigers within 43-41 with 7:47 left to go.

Except Rod Odom, who led Vanderbilt with 15 points, drilled a 3-pointer on the left wing a minute later to nudge the lead back to five points.

Undeterred, LSU made a third bid to pull in front as Stringer hit a pair of free throws to trail 46-45, only to see Fuller convert a layup while tumbling to the floor on the next trip at the 5:24 mark.

It summed up the gist of LSU’s road woes this season — staying in contention but unable to see a shot drop that might tilt the tables in its favor.

Fortunately, LSU shirked its struggles to lock down defensively.

Vanderbilt, which knocked down 6 of its first 13 shots, shot just 21.4 percent in the second half and went only of 7 of 28 on the night from behind the 3-point arc.

LSU wasn’t much better.

The Tigers shot just 33.3 percent from the floor. They went just 2 of 15 behind the 3-point line, including missing all four they put up in the second half.

In the lane, they only rolled up a 26-16 edge, but by attacking the rim, the Tigers managed to get to the line, knocking down 13 of 17 free throws in the second half.

Rumblings of a comeback stirred with three minutes left in the first half.

Trailing 28-12, a layup by O’Bryant spurred a 9-2 run over the final three minutes of the first half to get the Tigers within 32-24 at halftime.

Two trips later, O’Bryant tallied a put back, and on the ensuing possession Coleman hit a pair of free throws to make it a 28-18 deficit.

Vandy coach Kevin Stallings chipped in when he was whistled for a technical foul after Coleman was fouled on a drive toward the rim.

Stringer knocked down both of his free throws,while Coleman split his pair to make it a 30-21 game with a little over minute left in the first half.

But, as it so often has for the Tigers this season, LSU had to scramble after lax start on the defensive end of the floor.

Odom sprung loose on a down screen to swish a 3-pointer from the top of the key, then followed it up another mid-range jumper from the left wing to make it a 15-4 lead with 13:32 left in the first half

All the while, Martin trailed two steps behind the savvy Odom, who scored eight straight points during the 11-0 run.

Meanwhile, the Tigers struggled in a spot of the floor they dominated during an earlier rout of Vandy: the paint.

Every entry play to Johnny O’Bryant III and Jordan Mickey produced three players collapsing as the Tigers big men fought through a tangled mess of arms.

And LSU couldn’t make Vandy pay for packing the lane. They clanked nine consecutive 3-pointers until Andre stroked one through in the final minute of the first half.

Worse, it wasn’t the Commodores luminaries exploiting the Tigers zone defense.

With Odom and Fuller parked on the bench, Vandy went on 9-0 run over roughly six minutes to take a 28-12 lead with 3:40 until the break.

Five of those came from walk-on Nate Wakins, who entered seeing just five minutes a night and playing solely because Vandy’s seven scholarship players are feeling the ill effects of an 18-game grind in SEC play.

Yet Watkins buried a 3-pointer on the left wing after Stringer was slow to swing, and then he zipped past Shavon Coleman for an easy layup at the 7:41 mark to make it a 12-point lead.

Yet Vanderbilt still cooled down, shooting just 40 percent in the first half and 4 of 14 behind the arc while LSU tried to unthaw.