Kentucky Wildcats outlast Vanderbilt Commodores' upset bid, 87-81

Kentucky's John Calipari had to go against 25 years of coaching instincts to help his Wildcats escape Vanderbilt's Memorial Gym with a victory Tuesday night.

Two of Kentucky's starting guards, De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, picked up a pair of fouls before the first media timeout as the Cats saw a 9-0 lead out of the gates quickly disappear.

Calipari's solution? Veto his two-foul rule, put the young freshman standouts back in the game, and cross his fingers.

It worked. Fox and Monk avoided foul issues the rest of the night and came up with some huge scores down the stretch as the No. 6 Cats held on for an 87-81 victory over the Commodores. 

"If I've coached a thousand games, I've only done that a handful of times," the UK boss said.

The backcourt trio accounted for all of the Cats' final 27 points. Fox had 12, Monk had nine, and Briscoe had six.

Briscoe led Kentucky (14-2, 4-0 SEC) with a career-high 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Fox followed with 22 points, while Monk added 18. Freshman center Bam Adebayo gave the Cats a fourth double-figure scorer with 14 points and pulled down seven rebounds.

"Good win for us," said Calipari, praising the hostile environment and effort that Vanderbilt displayed. "... They shot a ton of free throws and made some 3s. We need this type of game to show us where we need to go."

Vanderbilt (8-8, 2-2 SEC) had a trio of players post 19 points: Matthew Fisher-Davis, Riley LaChance and Jeff Roberson. Luke Kornet added 16 for the Dores, who shot only 43 percent but scored 23 points at the free-throw line and made eight treys.

In this AllWildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some quick-hitters from the game...

WHAT WE LIKED:

Kentucky overcame a lot of adversity in perhaps the toughest venue it will play in from this point until the end of the season. The Cats survived massive foul trouble and a lack of perimeter firepower on a night when they hit only one of nine from beyond the 3-point arc. Briscoe's veteran presence was huge in that regard, and Adebayo showed he could carry the team at times in the first half when Fox and Monk were on the bench. The defense still isn't there yet -- nowhere near Calipari's traditional standards -- but the Cats still found a way to come up with some stops at the right time and pull out a hard-fought win. 

GAME BALL:

Isaiah Briscoe, Kentucky -- Almost every time the Cats needed a clutch bucket to hold off a potential Vanderbilt run, it was Briscoe doing what he does best: attacking off the dribble and finishing strong at the rim. Due to foul trouble among all of UK's other guards -- including reserve Dominique Hawkins -- Briscoe nearly went the distance for the Cats, playing 39 minutes. "Proud of him, toughing it out," Calipari said. The sophomore from New Jersey is now averaging 17.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists in SEC play.

BY THE NUMBERS:

6 - Turnovers for the Cats, a season-low.

9 - UK's biggest lead of the game, scoring the first nine of the night.

40-34 - UK rebounding advantage. Vandy had only four second-chance points.

51 - Percent shooting from the field for the Cats, the 11th time they've been over 50 this season.

142-47 - Kentucky's all-time series lead against Vanderbilt.

QUOTABLE:

"Last night in that (national championship) football game, what happened if someone broke down? Touchdown! That's sort of like us right now." -- UK head coach John Calipari relating his young team's defensive breakdowns to the high-scoring Clemson-Alabama game.

UP NEXT:

Kentucky returns to action on Saturday against Auburn in a 4 p.m. ET tip at Rupp Arena. The game will be broadcast on ESPN. Bruce Pearl's Tigers (11-5, 1-3 SEC) won 77-72 on Tuesday night at Missouri. 


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