With all the drama surrounding the LSU program this week, you’d have been justified if you thought the Tigers would come out flat against Vanderbilt on Saturday night.
However, with an outright SEC regular-season title on the line, the Tigers rose to the occasion, overcoming the absence of coach Will Wade (suspended), freshman G Javonte Smart (held out) and freshman F Naz Reid (injury) to thump the Commodores 80-59 in Baton Rouge.
Yes, the Commodores finished with an abysmal and historic 0-18 SEC record with the loss, but this was more about the Tigers putting the FBI scandal aside for a couple of hours and just playing basketball. Down two starters, the game was never in doubt, as LSU controlled the contest from the opening tipoff.
Tremont Waters led the way with 14 points and eight assists, and was joined by starters Skylar Mays (13 points), Kavell Bigby-Williams (10) and Marlon Taylor (10) in double figures.
Interestingly, a couple of unsung players had big games for the LSU offense. Bench players Darius Days and Marshall Graves had 15 points and 12 points, respectively, in the victory. Graves entered the game averaging only 1.8 points per night.
Because Tennessee lost at Auburn earlier on Saturday, the Tigers are the outright SEC champions. However, it remains to be seen whether they’ll have to vacate wins this season due to the FBI scandal.
Vanderbilt becomes the first team in history to go 0-18 in SEC play and will be the No. 14 seed in next week’s conference tournament.
For now, though, they enter the SEC Tournament as the No. 1 seed, and even without Smart and Wade, they’re still a dangerous squad. How far can they go? We’ll find out next week in Nashville.