Vanderbilt Victory over LSU was Equally Improbable and Enormous

Scotty Pippen Jr
Scotty Pippen Jr

If ever Vanderbilt figured to snap this long losing streak, Wednesday against LSU was not the time to expect a breakthrough.

By Matt Zemek

Vanderbilt victory over LSU was equally improbable and enormous

“Tell me something good.”

When friends or loved ones are in a bad place, they will sometimes turn to us and say, “Tell me something good.”

Something. Anything. Please.

Show a light in the darkness. Give a ray of hope to cut through the black, enveloping nothingness. Offer a reason to believe. Produce a valid basis for optimism which can reduce the gray and overwhelming gloom.

Tell me something good.

When a college basketball program loses 26 straight conference games, it’s bad enough. When that program is a Power Five conference program, the feeling of disillusionment can be even deeper and darker.

Tell me something good.

Vanderbilt cheerleaderVanderbilt desperately needed good news. It desperately needed to find a way to win one SEC game. Just one. Not two. A team can’t win two SEC games before winning the first one. Vanderbilt had improbably but genuinely struck out for 26 straight games.

The Darius Garland injury ruined last season under Bryce Drew. The Aaron Nesmith injury ruined January under Jerry Stackhouse. Vanderbilt had to find a way to cross the threshold, but with the LSU Tigers visiting Memorial Gym on Wednesday night, it didn’t seem the 26-game losing streak in the SEC would be snapped.

LSU was 8-0 in the SEC, while Vanderbilt was 0-8. Not only were the Tigers 8-0 in the SEC, but they had begun to win games by hefty margins after barely winning games in the first half of January. LSU had been a team which dragged itself through the first 35 minutes of a game, only to come alive and rally in the final five minutes for a victory. As the season went on, however, LSU moved away from that habit in sound spankings of Alabama and Ole Miss.

If ever Vanderbilt figured to snap this long losing streak, Wednesday against LSU was not the time to expect a breakthrough.

Yet, that is exactly what happened. Jerry Stackhouse now has a moment at VU he can use as a building block for the rest of this season and the future of his tenure in Nashville.

Saben Lee scoring 33 points was not surprising. The man can score, and Commodore fans have seen this up close for quite some time. Lee led by example, as he often does. The big key against LSU was for Lee to receive enough help to turn back the first-place team in the SEC.

Maxwell Evans
Maxwell Evans
Enter Max Evans. The junior had been averaging seven points per game entering Wednesday night. He had not scored more than 16 points in any game this season. He had scored more than 13 points only once since November 25. Much as it was improbable that Vanderbilt scored 99 points against an LSU team which has generally been very formidable at the defensive end of the floor, it was completely unexpected that Evans would explode for 31 points on 10-of-18 shooting and a dazzling 7-of-12 shooting line on 3-point shots. Evans and Lee combined to score 64 points, the kind of 1-2 combination the Commodores hoped to have from Nesmith and Lee this season.

Vanderbilt is still just 1-8 in the SEC, but that “1” feels very big after 26 straight conference games with a loss… and a zero in the win column.

Tell me something good.

Here you go: Vanderbilt won an SEC basketball game. It beat the first-place team in the conference with a virtually flawless offensive performance in which it not only shot well (57 percent overall, 40 percent on threes, 74 percent on foul shots with 17 free throw makes, an important part of the team’s performance), but committed just eight turnovers. Max Evans had a career night which can be a catalyst for the future.

Tell me something good.

For Vanderbilt, the good news is substantive and real in a way it hasn’t often been the past two years.

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