No. 21 LSU Stifles No. 18 Tennessee Offense In 79-67 Victory

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No. 21 LSU (14-1, 2-1 SEC) got its second straight win over a ranked opponent, defeating No. 18 Tennessee (10-4, 1-2 SEC) 79-67 at Pete Maravich Assembly Center Saturday night.

Coming off the 65-60 victory over Kentucky Tuesday, the Tigers were the better of the two best defensive teams in the land, forcing Tennessee to live and die from the three-point line. Entering the game shooting just 32% from behind the arc (232nd in the nation), the Volunteers converted just 6-of-24 attempts from three.

Tennessee’s offense found its rhythm in the later stages of the second half after falling behind by as much as 20. The charity stripe was open for business with LSU recording 26 fouls and Tennessee used it to hang around. The 20-point lead was down to five with 3:02 remaining in the game but that was as close as the Volunteers got.

Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes showed his frustration after the game, emphasizing his team’s inability to take advantage of the trips to the free-throw line. The Volunteers shot 62.2% from the line.

“If you’d told me we’d make it to the free throw line 37 times, i’d have told you we’d win by 10,” Barnes said.

Freshman guard Kennedy Chandler was the most frequent visitor, making 6-of-10 free throws. Chandler was the Volunteers’ leading scorer, recording 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting with four rebounds and three assists. Junior guard Santiago Vescovi added 14 of his own on 3-of-7 shooting with five rebounds and three assists.

Senior forward John Fulkerson was MIA, scoring just three points and attempting one shot from the field. Fulkerson has combined for eight points in his last two games after scoring 24 in the 77-73 win over No. 8 Arizona on Dec. 22. Barnes was very blunt in his assessment of Fulkerson’s play.

“We need John (Fulkerson) to help us. If not, he needs to step aside,” Barnes said. “He’s gotta play tougher and harder, defensively rebound wise, he’s got to do that.”

The paint was LSU’s all night long, with the Tigers winning the board battle, 41-33. They also grabbed 14 offensive boards to Tennessee’s 10. Sophomore forward Tari Eason led the way for the Tigers with 12 of his own.

Eason, as has been the case for most of the season, was the highlight coming off the bench for head coach Will Wade. The Cincinnati transfer scored a season-high 24 points on 9-of-16 from the field, his 12th double-digit scoring game of the season. Eason started on the floor for the second half, a move that paid dividends for LSU.

“Tari Eason is one of the best players in the country,” Wade said.

Eason provided the bulk of the Tigers’ offense, including a poster on Tennessee junior forward Olivier Nkamhoua with 7:44 remaining in the second half.

“I’m dunking it. Any time I get an opening, I’m dunking it. Chance favors the aggressor,” Eason said.

LSU first grabbed momentum in the final 10 minutes of the first half, aided by a 21-7 run. The efforts of senior forward Darius Days (15 points, eight rebounds) and freshman guard Brandon Murray (13 points, three rebounds) were key for the Tigers in the first half.

LSU will continue in-conference play with a matchup in Gainesville against Florida (9-4, 0-1 SEC) Wednesday. Tennessee will return home to face South Carolina (10-4, 1-1 SEC) Tuesday, looking to avoid dropping its third game in the last four.

With five SEC games in a row upcoming for LSU, Wade knows the Tigers must match the opposing team’s intensity, as they did against Tennessee.

“If you stay the same in this league, you’re going to get passed by,” Wade said. “You have to keep getting better.”

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Written by Nick Geddes

Nick Geddes is a 2021 graduate of the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. A life-long sports enthusiast, Nick shares a passion for sports writing and is proud to represent OutKick.

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  1. LSU is really good and I am not sure why they’re ranked so low. They’ve now beaten UK and UT back to back and are 14-1. Their only loss was at Auburn, who’s one of the best teams in the nation. LSU is a top 10 team ranked 21. Tennessee is solid but have played a murderous schedule. This will build toughness when it comes tourney time. The SEC this year rivals any conference in depth of talent. It’s stacked. No idea who will win this league, as there are 5-6 teams all talented enough to make a run in conference play.

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