NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Vanderbilt Commodores surprised first-year coach Jerry Stackhouse at the locker room door, spraying him from water bottles along with dumping a bucket of Gatorade on him in celebration.
Finally winning their first Southeastern Conference game with Stackhouse while ending a record 26-game skid in the league play during the regular season deserved to be enjoyed.
And they did it by upsetting No. 18 and defending SEC champ LSU 99-90 on Wednesday night.
“We can get this off our back and focus on trying to build the program and build this year because we have more wins in us if we play like we did,” Stackhouse said.
Saben Lee scored 33 points and Maxwell Evans had 31 — both career highs for the junior guards — as the Commodores (9-13, 1-8) beat their first SEC opponent since downing Ole Miss on March 3, 2018. Counting SEC tournament losses, that was a span of 28 straight league losses.
Vanderbilt has been playing without the SEC’s leading scorer Aaron Nesmith since the second game of league play this season. Scotty Pippen Jr. added 13 points, and Jordan Wright had 11 points for the Commodores.
Lee and Evans struggled to put into words the feeling of finally winning an SEC game.
“You never know till you know,” Lee said. “When that final buzzer went off, all the emotions came out.”
LSU (17-5, 8-1) also came in streaking, having won 13 straight SEC regular season games. The Tigers snapped that streak along with a 12-game streak on the SEC road, which had been the third-longest streak in school history. Coach Will Wade, a Nashville native, goes back home from Memorial Gym still looking for his first win in the league’s oldest gym.
Wade, who shared a quick moment with Stackhouse after each spoke to reporters, said Vandy will win more SEC games this season.
“They played extremely hard, and Saben Lee just controlled the game …,” Wade said. “He also set up Evans and all those other guys. He had us spinning around like a top the entire game.”
Trendon Watford led LSU with a season-high 26 points. Emmitt Williams added 24, and Skylar Mays and Javonte Smart had 15 each for the Tigers.
LSU took its biggest lead of the first half on its opening bucket. The teams swapped the lead nine times with six ties before Evans helped Vanderbilt go up by as much as 13 as he hit 5 of 7 beyond the arc. Vanderbilt led 52-47 at halftime in a season where the Commodores finished two games scoring 50 or less.
The Commodores never led by more than seven in the second half. LSU scored nine straight to take its first lead since being up 32-31 with 6:44 left in the first half. Mays scored a three-point play to put LSU up 82-80 with 6:46 to go. He added a free throw to cap the spurt, giving the Tigers their biggest lead of the game at 83-80.
Vanderbilt answered with six straight to go up 86-83 on Pippen’s jumper with 3:46 remaining. The Commodores finished the game on a 19-7 run to snap their drought.
“They smelled it there at the end,” Stackhouse said of his Commodores.
LSU: The Tigers also snapped a 10-game winning streak this season. They had a big advantage at the free throw line where they were 28 of 36. They also outrebounded Vandy 38-30 and had a 15-6 edge in second-chance points.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores may have been losing, but they still came in ranked second in the league making an average of 8.2 3-pointers per game and also with 173 total 3s. Evans finished 7 of 12 beyond the arc, and the Commodores went 12 of 30 from 3. They also outshot LSU 57.4% compared to 46.8%.
LSU: Visits No. 11 Auburn on Saturday.
Vanderbilt: Plays at Mississippi State on Saturday.
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