Vanderbilt shot 29 percent in the first half, trailed a good chunk of the game to a team with a 10-game losing streak, and its leading scorer wasn't even a starter.
It didn't wind up mattering. Buoyed by a 67 percent shooting performance in the second half and a strong ability to get to the foul line, the Commodores overcame a sluggish start to defeat LSU 77-69 Saturday afternoon at Memorial Gym.
Vanderbilt (19-5, 8-2) matched last season's victory totals, both overall and in conference, with the win, its fourth straight over the Tigers, and improved to 13-0 this year at home. Lance Goulbourne led the way with a career-high 18 points off the bench, and he also snagged 9 rebounds. Jermaine Beal had 17 points, 12 of them in the second half.
Against what LSU coach Trent Johnson called his struggling team's "best effort of the year", the Commodores pushed through, despite missing dependable forward Andre Walker to a shoulder injury and sharpshooting guard John Jenkins, still recovering from a stomach virus.
"When somebody goes down, someone has to step up," Goulbourne said. "Everybody did that well today. I just try to do the best that I can in any spot Coach puts me in."
LSU, despite a lack of experience and size, and coming in the lone team in the SEC without a conference victory, played the Commodores close the entire contest. The game had eight ties and four lead changes in front of a restless crowd in Nashville.
Center A.J. Ogilvy, after being a nonfactor in the first half, was key after the break, getting to the foul line 11 times. His 3-point play with 3:49 remaining snapped a 59-59 tie, and the Commodores never trailed again. Ogilvy finished with 12 points, eight of them from the line, and helped foul out LSU's Storm Warren and Garret Green.
All told, the Commodores got to the foul line 43 times and hit 31, while the Tigers only had 16 attempts and made 14.
"LSU gave us their best game," Beal said. "I think we made some winning plays down the stretch. I guess they got tired and ran out of gas."
The Commodores were simply too deep, too big and too good. In a lackluster performance with a depleted roster, Vanderbilt had enough contributions from the eight men who played to avoid what would have been a terrible defeat and maintain momentum from a big win over Tennessee on Tuesday.
"Any player any night can help us off the bench," Beal said. "Lance is one of many players who can help us out."