In the first ten minutes of the game, Vanderbilt built up an 18-10 lead, thanks in large part to a pair of 3-pointers each from Ashley McElhiney and Abi Ramsey. Then, when Chantelle Anderson, who had scored four points, blocked a shot, and pulled down four defensive boards in the early going, left the game for a breather, Kentucky capitalized and went on a quick 9-0 run to take a 19-18 lead with 8:53 left in the half.
As it turned out, that would be Kentucky's only lead of the game. Vanderbilt called a timeout, and then Vanderbilt's starters returned to the game. Soon after, Hillary Hager's 3-pointer gave the lead back to Vanderbilt at 21-19. With 6:27 left in the half, Anderson picked up her second foul and again left the game, with Vanderbilt holding a 23-19 lead.
This time, however, the Commodores were able to not only hold their lead, but also to build on it. After Sara Potts sank a 3-pointer for the Wildcats, Ashley Earley scored on a strong drive to the basket, Hager scored on an inbounds play, and Ashley McElhiney sank a couple of free throws to increase the Vanderbilt lead to 7 points at 29-22 with 4:27 left.
Throughout the remainder of the half, the Commodores were able to slowly increase the lead, which reached double digits for the first time at 37-27 when Hager sneaked in behind the defense and scored on a feed from Jenni Benningfield. When the teams headed for the locker room at halftime, the Commodores still held an 8-point lead at 39-31.
In Vanderbilt's most recent games this season, defense in the second half has been an issue. Against Tennessee a week ago, a 13-0 run immediately after halftime put the game out of reach for the Commodores. Against Alabama on Thursday, the Commodores held the Crimson Tide to 16 first half points, then allowed 53 in the second half. For a while, it looked as if history might repeat itself.
Led by 10 points from SeSe Helm, the Wildcats started the second half with a 17-9 run to trim Vanderbilt's 8-point halftime lead to a mere 2 points at 48-46 with 15:40 left. But in this case, the Commodores held their ground, with Benningfield, Earley, and Ramsey leading the offense, and Hager and Ramsey sparking the defense.
A 3-pointer from Ramsey on a kickout from Benningfield out of the double-team gave the Commodores a brief 5-point lead before a couple of Kentucky free throws trimmed it back to 3 points at 51-48 at the first media timeout of the second half.
And then Vanderbilt racheted up their defensive intensity. Three Vanderbilt steals, two by Abi Ramsey and one by Hager, over the next couple of minutes helped Vanderbilt regain a double-digit lead when Benningfield's 3-pointer made the score 59-48 with 12:11 remaining.
And that's when the Fat Lady began her warmups in the wings. A 3-pointer from Sara Potts briefly cut the lead to 8 points, but baskets from Earley on the backdoor and Benningfield through a double team in the low post pushed the lead back up to 12 points.
After that, Kentucky only managed to get within single digits once. In the final minutes, the Commodores continued to build the lead, reaching their biggest lead of night at 22 points on a fast break by Ramsey with 15 seconds left, giving the Commodores a 85-63 victory.
Vanderbilt was led in scoring by Abi Ramsey and Jenni Benningfield with 17 points each, followed by Ashley McElhiney and Ashley Earley off the bench with 15 points each, and Chantelle Anderson with 12. Vanderbilt narrowly missed having six players score in double figures as Hillary Hager finished with 9 points.
Anderson was leading rebounder with 7, followed by Benningfield and Ramsey with 5 each, and Earley with 4. McElhiney led in assists with 6, followed by Benningfield with 5. Ramsey had 4 steals in the game, and Hager finished with 3.
Kentucky was led in scoring by Rita Adams wtih 20 points, followed by Sara Potts with 19 including five 3-pointers, and SeSe Helm with 18. Jennifer Humphrey was leading rebounder with 8, followed by Helm with 6. Adams had 7 assists.
For the game, Vanderbilt shot 55.4% from the field, including 8 of 12 from 3-point range, and 75% from the free throw line. Kentucky shot 43.8% from the field (7 of 20 from 3-point range) and 93% from the free throw line.
Vanderbilt out-rebounded the Wildcats 29-25 and took better care of the ball with 16 turnovers compared to 25 for Kentucky, which led to 33 Vanderbilt points.
With the win, the Commodores improve to 15-7 overall (5-4 SEC), while Kentucky falls to 9-11 (2-6 SEC). For their next game, Vanderbilt is again on the road with a Thursday night matchup in Oxford, Mississippi, against the Ole Miss Rebels before returning home to host Georgia next Sunday afternoon.