Thursday night, in the last game of session three of the 2023 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament, Vanderbilt and LSU clashed with an opportunity to play on Friday night against Kentucky. Thursday night had two different meanings for Vanderbilt and LSU. On one side of the court, you had Vanderbilt, who is fighting for an NCAA Tournament bid, needing every win to do so. For LSU, the only chance the Tigers have at playing in the postseason is winning the Southeastern Conference Tournament. Both had a sense of urgency, but for very different reasons.
A loss to LSU and the hope of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament would go up in smoke for the Vanderbilt Commodores. A win over LSU, and the Commodores would have another chance to defeat Kentucky on Friday night for the second time in two weeks.
For LSU, the Tigers earned a hard-fought win over Georgia on Wednesday night to be in the position to continue their season after only winning two Southeastern Conference games all season. Ironically enough, one of those wins this season came by defeating Vanderbilt in Baton Rouge on February 22nd.
With little distance between the two, LSU and Vanderbilt battled in the first half, with Vanderbilt taking a slight 37-39 lead to the locker room. Tyrin Lawerence led the way in scoring for the Commodores at the break with 13 points. The difference in the first half for Vanderbilt was the rebounding margin, where the Commodores had 21 boards compared to the LSU 16.
LSU would open the second half by cutting the Vanderbilt lead down to two before the Commodores scored a few to extend the lead to 44-36 with 15:47 to play. Vanderbilt did a lot of that tonight. LSU would make a run, and the Commodores would respond to extend the lead to a bearable amount. It felt as if LSU were to make a run at winning the game on Thursday night between the under-16 media timeout and the under-12 media timeout of the second half would provide the crucial stretch of basketball that could make or break the Tigers.
Unfortunately for LSU, Head Coach Jerry Stackhouse had his Commdores poised to finish LSU in that stretch. As the under-12 media timeout approached, Vanderbilt held a 52-39 lead over LSU. Vanderbilt would finish LSU 77-68 to advance to play Kentucky on Friday.
Vanderbilt and Kentucky split the series this season. Kentucky and Vanderbilt will be the late game on Friday night.