At Kentucky, there's seemingly endless variations for its ever-demanding fans.
The Wildcats' 67-59 triumph Wednesday over Vanderbilt falls under the cosmetically-challenged 'W' heading. Despite shooting 39 percent from the field and being outrebounded by the SEC's worst team on the boards, Kentucky fell back on its old stand-by, smothering defense, to avoid an upset at Rupp Arena.
Vanderbilt (14-10, 4-7 SEC) shot only 36 percent from the field, the 12th time this season an opponent has failed to reach the 40 percent mark against the No. 10 Kentucky. The Cats (17-6, 7-4 SEC) also forced 17 turnovers --- leading to 22 points --- and blocked eight shots.
"They have the ability to turn it up when they need to," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said of the Cats' defense. "Few teams have that ability. Kentucky has another gear that they can go to when they need to. They turned it up and got stops. They altered so many of our shots in toward the basket."
The Commodores had stretches of 7:45, 4:19 and 2:10 without a field goal, and found the going tough against the Kentucky defense after pulling within four in the waning moments. Tayshaun Prince altered a shot by Matt Freije with 2:11 left, and Jules Camara stuffed David Przybyszewski with 1:13 remaning. Prince and Camara each blocked four shots on the night.
"Defense was the key for us tonight," Prince said. "Overall we weren't hitting from the outside. Vanderbilt ran a lot of different offenses at us. They moved the ball and screened well. We had to be ready for everything."
"It took us playing some good defense to pull this one out," UK coach Tubby Smith said. "We had some momentum there and we tried to get them in an uptempo game and put some pressure on them, but they did a good job of controlling the tempo.
"We're happy to get away with this one."
That Vanderbilt was even in the game late was a surprise to many. The Commodores entered the game 0-24 all-time at Rupp Arena and losers of 17 straight overall to Kentucky.
The Cats appeared to be en route to a blowout early, sparked by a 13-0 run. Six different UK players --- including freshman guard Rashaad Carruth, who saw his first action in the last three games --- scored during the spurt.
Kentucky went up 26-14 on a Keith Bogans 3-pointer with 4:34 left in the half. The Cats carried a 32-23 lead into the break.
Three-pointers by Marquis Estill and Bogans pushed the lead to 44-30 in the early moments of the second half, but Vanderbilt countered with a 7-0 run to hang within striking distance. The margin fluctuated between eight and 12 points until Freije and Chuck Moore sank back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 52-46 with 6:12 to play.
Another trey by Moore made it 56-52 with 2:59 remaining, but the Commodores could get no closer. Kentucky, which managed only three field goals in the final 15:20, hit 11 of 12 free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
"It was a case in the second half of us putting them on the foul line too much," Stallings said. "They are really good defensively, and then we missed a number of shots from close in. I thought our missed lay-ups and the fact that they got to the foul line so much was our downfall."
"When they hit those 3s late to get back in the game, we did a very poor job of recovering and contesting," Smith said. "... The rebounding was also disappointing. We weren't very active around the offensive glass."
Vanderbilt won the rebounding battle 35-33 and matched the Cats in second-chance points (10). Eight of those 10 by the Commodores came in the second half. Kentucky had just two in the final 20 minutes.
Prince led UK with 20 points on 7-for-12 shooting from the field and 6-of-6 accuracy at the line. Bogans followed with 12 points, while Camara and Gerald Fitch each had 10. Estill added nine points and a team-high seven rebounds.
Vanderbilt got 17 points and seven rebounds apiece from Freije and Moore.