Vandy whips Kentucky, 86-73

Vandy earned its first win in the last 19 games against Kentucky on Wednesday in Nashville...

NASHVILLE, Tenn.  --- Kentucky's hopes of winning the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division came crashing down in the most unlikely venue Wednesday as Vanderbilt hammered the No. 11 Wildcats 86-73.

The Commodores, looming as the sixth-place team in the East this year, broke an 18-game losing streak to Kentucky, notching their first win over the Cats since 1993.

"I won't have to hear about having the longest SEC losing streak to Kentucky," said Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, who was 0-5 against UK. "We're happy to end that."

Reserve guard Brendan Plavich was the catalyst for Vanderbilt (16-12, 6-9 SEC), scoring 17 of his 20 points in the first half on 6-for-7 shooting from the field and five 3-pointers.

The Commodores became only the third team this season to shoot better than 50 percent from the field against Kentucky (19-8, 9-6 SEC). They were 30-for-56 overall (53 percent) and 11-for-22 from 3-point range. In addition to Plavich's big night, the winners got 19 points from Matt Freije and Chuck Moore, and 17 points from Brian Thornton.

"Just a very, very poor defensive performance on our part," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "Our inability to get out on their shooters... Plavich set the tone for them early.

"We had people on him, but we didn't have a hand in his face. I thought it was aggressiveness on the ball, not getting our hand up on the shots."

Kentucky's offense was nearly as bad. The Cats were 22-for-62 from the field (35 percent) and took over half their shots (34) from long range, missing 24.

Tayshaun Prince and Rashaad Carruth scored a game-high 24 and a career-high 22 points, respectively, but no other Cats managed to reach double figures. Keith Bogans' struggles continued as he managed just two points on 1-for-6 shooting and grabbed only one rebound.

"Keith was just really, really bad tonight," Smith said. "He didn't seem to have his legs or his mind in it.

"We had no cohesiveness in our offense tonight. We were very disjointed."

Starting guard Gerald Fitch and reserve forward Erik Daniels were reinstated from their recent suspension, but failed to play.

"We've had things happen that take away from your focus and concentration. I felt like they needed to sit there and watch the kind of damage they've done to the team," Smith said.

Vanderbilt took advantage from the start, riding Plavich's hot hand to a 31-19 lead at the 7:45 mark. Kentucky drew within five just before the half, but the Commodores closed with a 5-0 spurt to lead 46-36 at the break.

The margin swelled to 15 in the early moments of the second half as Freije scored twice inside and Moore drained a 3-pointer.

Kentucky appeared to be poised for a run midway through the half as a J.P. Blevins steal and layup cut the deficit to 63-58. But Vanderbilt responded with an 8-0 run to effectively put the game away.

The Cats managed only one field goal from the 9:47 mark to the 2:21 mark of the second half. Their only baskets in the final 7:38 were three of Carruth's career-high six treys.

In addition to its hot shooting, Vanderbilt played Kentucky even on the boards (35-35) and committed only 12 turnovers. It wasn't a perfect performance, but just enough.

"I told them we didn't have to leap tall buildings to win this game," Stallings said. "Kentucky is a very good team, but we didn't have to play out of our minds to win."

It marked Kentucky's worst loss of the season, eclipsing a 12-point setback to Western Kentucky in the opener. Those losses represent the Cats' only double-digit defeats on the year.

Florida now awaits UK. The Gators visit Rupp Arena on Saturday in a matchup that will determine the No. 2 Eastern seed for the SEC Tournament in Atlanta. The loser falls to No. 3 and must play on Thursday, the opening day of the event. The winner gets a bye and opens the tourney on Friday.


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