Vanderbilt tops Kentucky, 67-65

NASHVILLE-- Trailing 65-63 to Kentucky with 26 seconds remaining, Vanderbilt's Derrick Byars made a free throw to pull his team to within one. Byars missed the second free throw but the ball was tipped by teammate Dan Cage back to Byars who made a difficult jumper to put Vanderbilt up 66-65. Vanderbilt went on to beat Kentucky for the fourth consecutive time, 67-65.

In the first half Kentucky took control and seemed to score at will as Bobby Perry scored the first two baskets of the game to give the Wildcats a 4-0 lead less than 2 minutes into the contest. Shan Foster's basket finally got Vanderbilt on the board with 17:45 remaining to make the score 6-2 Kentucky. Derrick Byars struggled throughout the half, scoring only 5, but his 3-pointer with 16:10 remaining in the half brought the Commodores to within 3 at 11-8. After Kentucky built a 20-11 lead with 10:45 remaining in the half, Alex Gordon's 3-pointer followed later by an acrobatic driving layup by Gordon helped Vanderbilt cut the Kentucky lead to just 22-20 with 6:40 remaining.

The Commodores suffered from a scoring drought the final 6 minutes of the half, managing just 3 points. Meanwhile, Kentucky had good offensive production from Perry, who finished the game with 18, and took a 32-23 lead into the locker room.

In the second half Vanderbilt stepped up defensive pressure on the Wildcats, forcing 14 Kentucky turnovers including 3 shot clock violations during the half. Vanderbilt cut the Kentucky lead to 6 at 34-28 with 18:56 remaining in the game only to see the Wildcats rebuild their lead to 10 at 46-36 with 14:15 remaining. Shan Foster's lay-up capped an 8-0 Vanderbilt run that pulled the home team to within 2 at 46-44 with 12:05 left. However, free throws by Jodie Meeks put the Wildcats back up by 7, 51-44, with 10:03 remaining.

Trailing 59-54, the Commodores finally got down to business. Byars 3-pointer pulled Vanderbilt to within 2 at 59-57. Byars then tipped in Gordon's missed shot to tie the game at 59 with 4:39 remaining. After Gordon fouled Ramel Bradley's successful 3-point attempt, Bradley made the free throw putting his team back up by 4, 63-59. Free throws by Ross Neltner and Derrick Byars again knotted the score at 63 with 2:38 remaining. Perry's field goal put Kentucky up 65-64 which set up the winning heroics by Byars.

Kentucky had two more chances in the final moments to tie the game or take the lead but Vanderbilt‘s Foster stole the ball on the first attempt and was fouled, making one of two free throws and giving Vandy a 67-65 lead. After the free throws Kentucky still had 9 seconds left to make a play. Ramel Bradley missed a shot and time expired as players scrambled for the loose ball.

Vanderbilt's Byars finished with 26 while Foster added 21. The two combined to make 5 of 11 three pointers in the second half. Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings was pleased with the manner in which Byars picked up his game in the second half, "We kind of challenged Derrick at halftime. We didn't think he had one of his better first halves. I want to try and remember exactly what I said because he was pretty spectacular in the second half. It was a great game and certainly could have gone either way and we felt good about making the plays down the stretch," said Stallings in his post game press conference.

Kentucky shot 58.1 percent from the field for the game, including 60% during the second half. It was the first time in history Kentucky basketball that the Wildcats have made 58.1% or more of their field goals in a game and lost.

Vanderbilt improves to 19-9 (9-5 SEC) and will travel to South Carolina on Wednesday. The Commodores are now 40-128 all time against Kentucky. Kentucky falls to 19-9 (8-6 SEC). The Wildcats will host Georgia on Wednesday.

After being fined $25,000 by the SEC when students rushed the court following the Commodores upset over formerly number 1 Florida, Vanderbilt officials obtained additional law enforcement personnel for the game and Vanderbilt administrators held meetings with student leadership to encourage cooperation from the student body. In the final moments of today's game, Vanderbilt Vice Chancellor David Williams took position in the center, front of the student section to help discourage a rush by students but there wasn't any attempt. Several Vanderbilt players visited with students following the traditional postgame handshakes with the Kentucky players.

Derrick Byars (VM/Stan Jones)

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