For 25th-ranked UK, the loss will likely knock them from the national rankings after just one week of reaching the top 25.
"Vandy did a good job of pressuring the ball and had the double-team formula on Randolph (Morris)," said coach Tubby Smith, "We had a really tough time of getting Randolph out of the double team – that's why they held Randolph to only 11 points. Since they were shooting threes, we had to match them, which allowed them to dictate the tempo and style of the game, instead of us dictating how we were going to play the game. We missed some shots early on and turned the ball over and created some crucial situations that cost us the game. We had that one-point lead coming down the court and Ramel (Bradley) threw the ball away. In a game like this, it's about who's going to execute down the stretch and Vandy did that." For Coach Kevin Stallings, it was his third straight win over Kentucky (15-4, 4-1 SEC), including the last two in Rupp Arena. Vanderbilt (13-6, 3-2 SEC) combined hot shooting with a surprisingly tough defensive effort to break out to an early lead. Shan Foster connected on two of his first three three-point attempts to give Vanderbilt an early 6-2 lead. Later Derrick Byars would get into the action, canning three of four free throws and landing two three pointers, the latter of which gave the Dores an eight point lead at 24-16 with 5:56 remaining.
Vanderbilt was on fire in the second half but Kentucky would stay close most of the way. Junior Ramel Bradley would connect on a short shot to give the Cats a 45-44 lead at the 13:35 mark, but Byers and Alex Gordon would hit back to back shot to put the Commodores back up.
"We didn't get the ball down in the post as much as we wanted to tonight," said Morris, "They did a great job of collapsing down on me and closing the passing lanes. I tried to kick it out and find the open shooters, but they (Vanderbilt) just did a nice job." At 6:07 with Vandy up by four, the Cats would make one final run for the win. Bobby Perry would make a three pointer and Ramel Bradley would make a tough, off-balanced jumper as the shot clock was winding down. The Cats had their final lead at 59-58 with just under three minutes remaining, but it would be Vanderbilt that executed down the stretch.
Foster, Byers would continue to connect and senior wing Dan Cage came up big down the stretch, scoring seven of Vandy's last 10 points to ice the Cats.
"When Dan Cage shoots it, if he is open, there is not one ounce of my entire body that says ‘oh no,'" said Stallings, "Every time he shoots it when he is open I am saying ‘oh yes.' He is a phenomenal shooter. You have to come in here and play to win. I thought our guys really did that in the stretch." The Wildcats, whose defense had been holding opponents to under 40% shooting for most of the season, allowed Vanderbilt to shoot 50% from the field for the game, and a sizzling 11-23 from three point range.
The Wildcats shot just 43% from the field and 27% from three point range. The Cats won the battle of the boards by two. "We watched film on them, so we knew what to expect," said Perry, "They are very aggressive on the defensive end. They like to get out on the shooters, and they trap a lot. They kept their zone high and aggressive. Their zone really messed up the flow of our offense. I thought we got it going there at the end of the first half, but they went in at halftime and made some adjustments." Kentucky will now travel to Athens, Georgia, to play the Bulldogs (11-6, 3-2 SEC), who lost a big lead (and the game) to Alabama earlier today. Georgia beat this same Vanderbilt ball club last Saturday by 12 and recently beat an up-and-coming Arkansas team.