When they met a month ago in Nashville, Tennessee, the LSU basketball team didn’t have an answer for Vanderbilt’s high-scoring duo of Riley LaChance and Jeff Roberson.
That afternoon, LaChance and Roberson combined for 46 huge points in the Commodores’ six-point victory.
Those two were at it again Tuesday night, again teaming up for 46 points in the rematch in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
But this time around, LSU had the perfect antidote — putting four players of their own in double digits, who combined for 73 points in the Tigers’ 88-78 win over the Commodores.
Tremont Waters fired in 28 points and handed out nine assists, while Wayde Sims, who started for the first time since Dec. 16, dropped in a career-high 16 points — 12 of them in the first half.
Sims started instead of Duop Reath because LSU coach Will Wade figured Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew was going to start a small lineup. Reath has also battled a left ankle injury since being hurt in a win over Arkansas on Feb. 3.
“Obviously, Sims was the difference in the game,” Wade said. “I thought he was great … he allowed us to play smaller. I thought Randy (Onwuasor) did a good job defensively. Those guys played well and allowed us to play a small lineup to match their smaller lineup.”
Aaron Epps finished with 15 and Skylar Mays 14 for LSU, which earned a second consecutive win for the first time since defeating Texas A&M and Arkansas on the road in early January.
The victory for LSU (16-11, 7-8 Southeastern Conference), which plays at Georgia on Saturday, snapped a two-game winning streak for Vanderbilt (11-17, 5-10).
It was the fifth win in a row in the PMAC for the Tigers, who started league play with three consecutive losses on their home floor.
Waters scored 18 points and Mays 12 in the second half alone as LSU, which led by 10 at halftime, shot 75 percent from the floor in making 15 of 20 shots.
That helped the Tigers win going away even though LaChance and Roberson did their best to make it interesting.
But in the end, they couldn’t keep up with LSU’s quartet.
LaChance again had 26 points (including 14 in the second half) and Roberson added 20 (with 13 coming after halftime). Saben Lee got 13 of his 15 points in the second half as they engaged Waters and Co. in a shootout.
After hitting just 43.8 percent in making 7 of 16 field-goal attempts in the first 11½ minutes, LSU came alive.
Over the final 28½ minutes, the Tigers were 23 of 32 from the floor for 71.9 percent — eventually helping them finish 30 of 48 for 62.5 percent.
“We were efficient on offense,” Wade said. “That goes without saying; we were more aggressive.”
It was the highest shooting percentage of the season for LSU, whose previous best came in a 99-59 victory over Alcorn State in Wade’s coaching debut with the Tigers back on Nov. 10.
Waters was 10 of 18 from the floor, while Sims knocked down all six of his attempts. Epps was 5 of 7 and Mays 4 of 6.
“The coaching staff was telling me to come out and make plays,” Waters said. “They told me to attack the paint and spray the ball out. That opened me up to make shots.”
“I knew I was going to start the day before the game,” said Sims, who was averaging 5.5 points a game. “I knew Duop’s ankle was kind of messed up and I had to step in his role.”
It wasn’t all shooting for Waters, though.
With his eighth assist on a dunk by Epps with 17:38 remaining, Waters set an LSU freshman record with his 159th assist of the season. The old mark of 158 was set by Ben Simmons during the 2015-16 season.
“Good job Ben Simmons,” Waters said in deference to the Tigers’ All-American. “It’s just a moment in my life that my parents and I worked really hard on … just creating my character to be a giver. It translates on the court.”