NCAA Basketball

No. 25 LSU, Vanderbilt meet with season hopes fading fast

LSU and Vanderbilt are both sinking in the SEC standings as they prepare to meet Saturday in Nashville, Tenn.

The No. 25 Tigers (16-6, 4-5) are on the verge of falling out of the rankings after a 76-72 home loss to Ole Miss on Tuesday, their fifth loss in six games.

The Commodores (11-10, 3-6) have lost four of five after a 77-70 defeat at No. 5 Kentucky on Wednesday night.

LSU coach Will Wade called the game against Ole Miss a "difficult, difficult loss for us."

"We have to get off the mat," Wade added. "We have to get back to work and continue to get better."

The Tigers have been one of the top defensive teams in the country most of the season, but they couldn't prevent the Rebels from racing to a 43-19 lead.

"They were too comfortable in the beginning of the game," said Darius Days, who led LSU with 21 points and 13 rebounds. "In the first 10 minutes of the game they were hitting shots left and right."

The Tigers chipped away and eventually got within two points on a couple of occasions late in the game, but they couldn't catch Ole Miss.

"It just took us too long to settle in," Wade said.

The Rebels finished with one less point than LSU allowed in a 77-68 loss to TCU last Saturday, the highest-scoring game by a Tigers opponent this season.

"Don't count us out yet," Days said. "We've got time and a lot of work to do."

Eric Gaines and Tari Eason added 16 points each for LSU, but the recent defensive slippage is a concern.

That could be a problem against Vanderbilt's Scotty Pippen Jr., who took over the SEC scoring lead (19.3 points per game) after scoring 33 against Kentucky.

The Commodores closed within three points midway through the second half, but the Wildcats scored the next six points and stayed in control.

"We can play with anybody when we share the ball and we defend the way we're capable of," coach Jerry Stackhouse said. "Then we can come in and not just win, but we can do some really good things. We didn't have the main positive that we wanted, but there were a lot of good things to take away from this."

One positive was that Vanderbilt held Kentucky to 27.6 percent shooting in the second half. Another was that the Commodores outrebounded Kentucky, which leads the nation with a plus-12 average rebounding margin, 37-30.

"You should win most games when you outrebound the other team," Pippen said.

But the Commodores hurt themselves with 18 turnovers, 11 of which came in a first half that ended with the Wildcats holding a 41-31 lead.

"The turnovers were the difference in the first half," Stackhouse said.

Liam Robbins, a 7-foot center and graduate transfer from Minnesota, made his Vanderbilt debut after missing the first 20 games of the season due to a foot injury. He came off the bench and had two rebounds and one block in just 13 minutes, but the Commodores hope he can provide a boost the rest of the way.

--Field Level Media

Updated February 3, 2022

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