Vanderbilt holds off pesky LSU

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Festus Ezeli scored 21 points in helping Vanderbilt beat LSU 76-61 Wednesday night and snap a two-game skid.

Vanderbilt (17-7, 6-3 Southeastern Conference) had lost at Arkansas and then-No. 12 Florida, which knocked it back out of the Top 25. The Commodores bounced back at home, even though they came out flat and a bit sloppy with a visit Saturday night from No. 1 Kentucky looming.

John Jenkins added 20 points for Vanderbilt, and Jeffery Taylor added 19.

EzeliThe Commodores led by 11 three times but couldn’t put LSU away. Andre Stringer hit two free throws to pull the Tigers within 63-59. Ezeli had a one-handed dunk, then Taylor stole the ball leading to a 3-pointer by Jenkins with 4:07 left.

LSU (13-10, 3-6) lost for the fourth time in five games. Reserve Storm Warren had a team-high 13, Anthony Hickey and Ralston Turner had 12 and Justin Hamilton 10.

The Tigers had something to do with Vanderbilt’s sluggish play. They have held 12 opponents under 60 points this season and looked to be on track for a 13th when the teams were tied at 27 at halftime.

LSU did hold the SEC’s best 3-point shooting team to 35 percent (7 of 20), well below Vanderbilt’s 42.9 percent average beyond the arc.

But with Ezeli playing much better after his left knee had been hurting the past few days, the Commodores had a 38-22 scoring edge in the paint and they tied LSU at 37-all on the boards where the Tigers had been the SEC leader in offensive boards. Ezeli seemed to score at will at times with a handful of dunks.

The Tigers last led at 35-34 on a long jumper by Turner with 16:40. Jenkins hit a pair of free throws for the 10th and final lead change. That started a 12-0 run, and it was Taylor who finally gave the fans who came out something to cheer as he hit consecutive 3-pointers, the second from the top of the key for Vanderbilt largest lead at 46-35 with 12:53 left.

Vanderbilt had a chance to blow out the Tigers early going up by eight. LSU came back by scoring the next eight to tie it back up, and the teams stayed tight the rest of the half. Hickey’s 3-pointer with 8.3 seconds left put LSU ahead 27-25 before Taylor finished off a fast-break with a layup and the halftime tie.