BATON ROUGE, La. (AP)—Derrick Byars wasn’t interested in talking about his recent scoring surge, even if it did play a big part in Vanderbilt’s second consecutive impressive road victory in the Southeastern Conference and third win in a row over a ranked opponent.
“We were flying everywhere on defense,” said Byars, hunching over an interview table, exhausted, following the Commodores’ 64-53 triumph over No. 21 LSU on Wednesday night. “We were just preaching, ‘Let’s get a stop on this end and then try to get a score on the other end.”’
And that’s how it went.
LSU shot only 32.3 percent. Byars, meanwhile, finished with a team-high 18 points and 10 rebounds, while south Louisiana native Shan Foster hit a driving lay-up and a 3-pointer in the final minutes that sent most fans to the exits.
“My friends and family started moving down into those seats, so it was good see them all coming down, smiling at me,” said Foster who scored 14 points while playing a little more than an hour’s drive from his hometown of Kenner, La.
The game was also a homecoming of sorts for junior forward Ross Neltner, who transferred to Vanderbilt from LSU two years ago when it seemed he’d see little playing time behind Tyrus Thomas and Glen Davis.
Neltner said an LSU student manager he chatted with before the game told him he was “pretty much one step below Saban around here,” referring to former LSU football coach Nick Saban, who recently took over at Alabama and is thought of as a traitor to many Tigers fans.
Also, Neltner’s girlfriend was court-side as part of LSU’s dance team.
Neltner managed only two points and four rebounds, but Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings credited the 6-foot-9 forward with anchoring a swarming defensive scheme that held Davis to a 12 points and got the imposing LSU big man into foul trouble.
“This wasn’t his best game offensively, but he was good on Glen,” Stallings said. “He couldn’t guard Glen by himself, but he was great until the help got there.”
Davis, who averaged 18.6 points coming in, was called for his fourth foul with eight minutes to go and sat out several key minutes thereafter.
LSU was doomed by a poor start and Vanderbilt (14-6, 4-2 SEC), coming off of victories over Alabama and Kentucky, remained consistent enough down the stretch to hold of a charge by the Tigers in the final 10 minutes.
Vanderbilt led 51-34 after Ted Skuchas’ jump hook with a little over 10 minutes to play.
Tasmin Mitchell and Garrett Temple fueled an 18-6 LSU run to get the Tigers (13-6, 2-3) as close as 55-49 with 2:56 left. Foster put it away from there.
Vanderbilt hit 10 3-pointers, four by Dan Cage, who finished with 14 points. Alex Gordon, a 5-11 guard, grabbed 10 rebounds.
Mitchell led LSU with 16 points, while Temple scored 12.
LSU was out of synch and cold shooting early, resulting in a quick double-digit deficit.
The Tigers hit only one of their first 10 shots and turned the ball over four times in the opening seven minutes. Foster had seven points during that span, including a 3-pointer, and Cage’s 3-pointer shortly after gave Vanderbilt a 16-3 lead.
“It’s not like the effort or trying wasn’t there,” LSU coach John Brady said. “We’re just not very calm offensively. We rush. We’re in too big a hurry, and we’ve got to have some guys just make some plays at the right moments of the game. We weren’t able to do that tonight.”
LSU also had trouble shooting over the 6-foot-11 Skuchas, who had four blocks in the first half.
Byars, who scored 23 points in Vanderbilt’s victory over Kentucky last weekend, had 11 points in the opening 20 minutes, including a layup when Cage found him on a cut to the basket to give the Commodores a 23-8 lead.
LSU shot only 29.4 percent in the first half, and that was after Mitchell found his outside shot late in the period, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and another jumper to help the Tigers trim their deficit to 34-24 at halftime.
“We got off to such a good start both offensively and defensively that we were able to dictate the way the game was played,” Stallings said of his team’s first victory in Baton Rouge since 2001. “We’re very excited about this win. LSU’s a difficult matchup for us and I was concerned about that. They’ve really had their way with us the last couple seasons.”