Tigers spoil Commodores' SEC home opener


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Ben Simmons scored 36 points and grabbed 14 rebounds as the LSU Tigers beat Vanderbilt 90-82 Saturday night in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

Simmons scored 18 in each half, and Keith Hornsby added 23 points as the Tigers (8-5) picked up their fourth victory in five games. Coach Johnny Jones has yet to lose to Vanderbilt, improving to 5-0 even with this the third straight at Memorial Gym.

Craig Victor II added 11 points for the Tigers.

Vanderbilt (8-5) came in leading the SEC in scoring defense, holding opponents to 61.8 points, and third nationally holding opponents to 35.8 percent shooting. With 7-foot-1 junior Luke Kornet still out with a torn MCL, the Commodores struggled to slow down Simmons.

Wade Baldwin IV led five Commodores in double figures with 17 points. Jeff Roberson added 13, Matthew Fisher-Davis 11 and Riley LaChance and Damian Jones each had 12.

The Tigers came in second in the SEC scoring an average of 83.8 points per game, while Vanderbilt leads the league and ranks third nationally holding opponents to 35.8 percent shooting. For the first 30 minutes, this looked to be headed for overtime just like last season when LSU pulled that win out. The teams swapped the lead 14 times with six ties.

Vanderbilt led 35-34 at halftime and last led 51-50 on a 3-pointer by Baldwin from the top of the key. Hornsby hit a 3 to put LSU ahead to stay with 13:21 remaining, and the Tigers built that lead to as much as nine until the final minutes. Vanderbilt got within four a couple times, the last on a driving layup by LaChance with 5:00 left.

Hornsby hit another 3, and Vanderbilt didn’t get closer than five the rest of the way.

Simmons, the freshman from Australia, dominated. He scored 11 straight in the first half and 15 of 17 in keeping LSU close. Simmons scored over and over again with dunks, and he was 16 of 19 with all of LSU’s attempts until Tim Quarterman split a pair of free throws with 2:01 left.

Vanderbilt: The Commodores snapped a five-game SEC streak in the regular season from the end of last season. … Fisher-Davis, leading the SEC shooting 48.1 percent from 3-point range, had hit 17 3s in his past six games. He hit 3 of 5 against LSU. … Vanderbilt now has led at halftime in four of its five losses.

LSU: The Tigers now are 45-37 in league openers. … This is the third time LSU has opened SEC play on the road in Jones’ four seasons as coach. … LSU won its SEC opener for the first time since 2012 after losing to Auburn in 2013, Tennessee in 2014 and at Missouri in 2015.

Vanderbilt: Visits Arkansas on Tuesday night.

LSU: Host No. 10 Kentucky on Tuesday night.