When LSU looked like they could pull close to Vanderbilt, Festus Ezeli had an answer; either with big buckets, blocks, or rebounds. Ezeli was dominant in the paint and the Commodores didn't trail for the final 34 minutes of the game as the team bulldozed their way to a big lead and held on for a 62-50 win Thursday night.
The Commodores were without SEC Player of the Year candidate John Jenkins thanks to a case of turf toe, but the man known as "the flamethrower" wasn't needed to dispatch the Tigers. Rod Odom started in his place in a three forward set that included Jeffery Taylor and Lance Goulbourne. Taylor was able to pick up some of Jenkins's offensive slack, going off for 21 points and 12 rebounds in a Neltner-esque display of proficiency. Brad Tinsley, Vandy's other presence in the backcourt, scored 10 of his own.
The end of the game certainly wasn't encouraging for Commodore fans, as the team nearly threw away a 20 point lead that was preserved only by LSU's inability to make shots as the game wore on. Vanderbilt went 1-10 from the field over the final 10 minutes to let the Tigers claw back into the contest. Without Jenkins, the team shot just 3-22 from three-point range.
Tonight's game also saw Andre Walker play his first significant minutes on the court in nearly three weeks, including playing time down the stretch in an effort to jolt the Commodore offense back to life. Another highlight was the presence of Jordan Smart in the middle of the second half, a move that the ESPN announcers called "interesting." He was pulled soon after failing to contain his ginger brother Eddie Ludwig from LSU (10 points), allowing the Tigers to pull within a dozen points with eight minutes to go.
With the win, Vandy advances to play Mississippi State Friday night at 10 PM Eastern. The Commodores defeated Rick Stansbury's squad 81-74 in January, but the Bulldogs have been a respectable 7-4 since then. It'll be a tough match-up between two talented teams that have had difficulties maximizing their potential this season.