Kentucky edges Vanderbilt, 68-66

LEXINGTON— Vanderbilt rallied from a 13-point deficit with 11 minutes remaining to lead Kentucky on the road. However, the Commodores failed to make plays down the stretch and fell 68-66 to the Wildcats. The loss dropped Vanderbilt to 9-6 in the SEC as the home season finale against Florida looms.

Trailing 68-65 with 6 seconds remaining Vanderbilt's Brad Tinsley, who had been fouled by Brandon Knight, made the first free throw of a 1-in-1 situation to pull the Commodores to within 2 points at 68-66. Tinsley then intentionally missed the second free throw. The ball bounced to the right corner of the court but Tinsley was unable to save the ball and Kentucky took over possession. On the ensuing inbounds play with 4 seconds to play, the ball was inbounded and Kentucky's Terrence Jones—under heavy Commodore defensive pressure— was called for traveling and the ball went over to Vandy with 1 second to play.

Vanderbilt was not allowed to make a shot in the final second. Sharpshooter John Jenkins was double teamed while Festus Ezeli, the game's leading scorer with 22 points, was pinned between two Kentucky defenders. Ezeli could not get control of the ball which went out of bounds as time ran out in the game.

Twice in the second half Vanderbilt rallied from double deficits to pull close or take the lead. After falling behind by 11 at the half, a Jenkins jumper and three along with a Jeffery Taylor layup pulled the Commodores to within 44-40 after with just under 16 minutes to play in the game. However, Kentucky went on a 9-0 run to gain a seemingly safe 55-42 lead with 12:49 remaining.

Vanderbilt then went on an 18-5 tear of its own and left a crowd of over 23,000 in stunned silence when Lance Goulbourne's layup put the Commodores on top 60-59 with 4:25 to play. However, Kentucky rallied to retake the lead after a Darius Miller layup 2:30 to play. Vanderbilt would lead once more by one before falling behind for good on a Jones free throw with 52 seconds to play.

Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings was gracious in defeat and tipped his hat to the opposition while seeing some positives for his team.

"Well I thought that was a great college game," said Stallings. "We're very disappointed to have lost. We've turned into a pretty tough, battle-tested road team. I really, really liked how we competed and how we fought. A play here or there and we had us a victory, but we certainly congratulate them."

Center Festus Ezeli, who had 13 rebounds to go with his 22 points for a double-double, felt that the key difference between this loss and the Commodores' 81-77 win in Nashville on February 12 was shooting. Vanderbilt struggled in the first half shooting, making no 3-point shots and just 12-of-26 from the field. For the game Vanderbilt made just 18 percent (2-of-8) 3-points shots and 43 percent (14-of-32) from the field.

"We made more shots back in Nashville, "said Ezeli. "We started off better in Nashville than we did here tonight. That was a key to the game. We learned a little bit tonight and we fought."

Other key scorers for Vanderbilt included Jenkins with 16 and Taylor with 13. Kentucky was led by Knight who had 17.

Vanderbilt falls to 21-8 (9-6 SEC) with the loss. The Commodores, who can still earn a No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament, will host Florida on Saturday at Memorial Gym. Kentucky is also 21-8 (9-6 SEC) will visit Tennessee on Sunday. Kentucky now has a commanding 134-44 all-time lead in its series with the Commodores.

Kentucky's Brandon Knight shoots over Vanderbilt's Festus Ezeli (3) as Vanderbilt's Jeffery Taylor (44) looks on during the second half of their NCAA college basketball game in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, March 1, 2011. Knight had 17 points in the 68-66 Kentucky win. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke) Top Stories