NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The LSU men’s basketball team opened its 84th season of Southeastern Conference play in style in Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gymnasium with a 90-82 victory Saturday night.
The Tigers began their 18-game league slate with an upset win against Vanderbilt, the team that was picked to finish second in the league race by a media panel at SEC Media Day in October — behind only Kentucky.
In its first league game back on Jan. 4, 1933, LSU claimed a 32-27 win over Alabama in Baton Rouge.
Once again, LSU was almost back to full strength for its SEC opener.
Freshman guard Brandon Sampson, who was held out of Tuesday night’s game against Wake Forest with an unspecified injury, was back Saturday.
Sampson entered the game with 10:40 remaining in the first half and played 8 minutes. He didn’t score but had one rebound.
Forward Brian Bridgewater, who had a leg injury that required a surgical procedure in mid-December, was the only player on the roster to not dress. He’s expected back in about two weeks.
With its victory over Vanderbilt, coach Johnny Jones’ team snapped a three-game losing streak in league openers.
The Tigers’ last win in an SEC opener came in 2012 — Trent Johnson’s final year as coach — when they bashed Ole Miss 81-55. Jones, who replaced Johnson for the 2012-13 season, fell to Auburn (2013), Tennessee (2014) and Missouri in overtime (2015).
Jones is now 5-0 against Vanderbilt in his four seasons at LSU.
The Tigers topped the Commodores in 2013 (57-56 in Baton Rouge), then swept both meetings with VU in 2014 (57-51 in Baton Rouge, 81-58 in Nashville) and made it four in a row last season (79-75 in overtime in Nashville) before winning again Saturday night.
Jones hits 1,000
Vanderbilt junior center Damian Jones, a Baton Rouge native, went over the 1,000-point mark for his career in the Commodores’ win over Western Michigan on Wednesday.
Jones and LSU’s Ben Simmons are two of the SEC’s seven players on the Wooden Award watch list.