Vandy loses focus, falls 68-78 to Kentucky

The bump in the road grew larger for Vanderbilt (13-7, 4-3 SEC) as it dropped its seventh away from home, 78-68 against No. 19 Kentucky. By the first half, the ‘Dores had fallen into a Kentucky cavern so deep no amount of player combinations would dig them out.

The first half of the opening 20 minutes Vandy played aggressively, but went cold in the final 10 minutes. The ‘Dores landed on 21 and stayed there for more than six minutes until Rebecca Silinski hit a free throw. Kentucky (15-4, 5-2 SEC) went on a 30-5 run to bury any gains and entered the break at 22-37.

Although the ‘Dores scrambled to pull within seven with 17 seconds left, it was too little too late. Vandy did not have an answer for Wildcats Victoria Dunlap or Bernisha Pinkett, each with 17 points, or the referees' whistles, which nailed the Black & Gold with 32 fouls to Kentucky's 23.

A peeved Head Coach Melanie Balcomb was slapped with a rare technical for repeatedly questioning one official's calls. By the first half, four players had two fouls apiece, but game's end, 10 of 11 players were hit with at least one, four had 4 calls, and Stephanie Holzer had fouled out.

Stephanie, with 13 points on 4 of 5 shooting and six rebounds, was an inside powerhouse in the first half, but saddled with two early fouls, saw just 16 minutes of action in the game. She left the first half at 10:52 with the second whistle after scoring nine of the team's first 14 points. At 10:02, Kentucky started their run and didn't look back.

Christina Foggie led Vandy scorers with 15, all in the second half, and was 7 of 8 from the free throw line. Vandy shot 81.8% from the free throw line in the second half, nailing 18 on 22 attempts, compared to 3 of 7 attempts in the first half. Jence Rhoads finished with 14 points and six rebounds, and Angela Puleo, hot from long range, sank 4 of 5 buckets for 12 points.

Kentucky continued to score at will in the second half's first five minutes, building a 23-point advantage that proved to be insurmountable. Coach Balcomb said, "We let them attack us. We became very passive on offense and no one stepped up and wanted the ball." Nearing its season-high of 25 turnovers, the ‘Dores lost the ball 21 times on Sunday.

Kentucky Head Coach Matt Mitchell was effusive in how big a win this was for Kentucky. "I wasn't sure how we would respond today, but we did. We attacked. This was a big win for our program. Vanderbilt is a really, really good team and what we did to them in the first half is very unusual."

Vanderbilt rests with an SEC bye this week before Jam the Gym with Ole Miss at 2 p.m. on January 30. All tickets are a buck and fans are invited to a clinic and autograph session after the contest. Top Stories