Vanderbilt falls to Western Kentucky, 76-69

NASHVILLE-- A.J. Slaughter scored 27 points as Sun Belt opponent Western Kentucky delivered an embarrassing, 76-69, loss to No. 24 Vanderbilt. The Commodores suffered the loss in their own backyard at the Sommet Center in the second game of the 2009 Sun Belt Classic. Tennessee defeated Middle Tennessee, 75-54, in the earlier game.

Trailing by one at the start of the second half, Western Kentucky quickly retook the lead they had enjoyed most of the first half on a Jeremy Evans tip in. A layup by Slaughter then put the Hilltoppers up by five with 14:30 left in the game.

Vanderbilt twice cut the WKU margin to one point between the 12 and 10 minute marks but was unable to regain the lead because of missed shots and turnovers. Neither team shot particularly well but WKU enjoyed a 29-26 percent edge in 3-point accuracy, a 49-46 percent advantage in field goal accuracy and a 65-60 edge at the free throw line.

With four minutes remaining in the game Vanderbilt appeared to be poised to finally make a run after Beal scored a layup to cut the WKU lead to 64-62, however, two minutes and two Western Kentucky offensive rebounds later, Slaughter's 2-point bucket put the Hilltoppers back up by four. In the final two minutes it seemed like the Commodores could do nothing right as they missed free throws and turned the ball over while WKU made its free throws down the stretch to preserve their upset victory.

Vanderbilt started freshman guard John Jenkins and center Festus Ezeli in place of veterans Jermaine Beal and A.J. Ogilvy. The early minutes of the game seemed similar to those of the recent loss at Illinois as Western took the early lead and methodically built a 21-15 lead with 12:40 left in the half while Vanderbilt seemed in a daze. Late in the first half Vandy started to show some signs of life on offense. Charles Hinkle's 3-pointer pulled the 'Dores to within three at 21-18. Later, a layup by Brad Tinsley followed by a Jeffery Taylor jumper cut the WKU lead to just one (26-25) with 8:20 left.

The Commodores took their first lead of the night at 29-28 after two made Taylor free throws with six minutes before halftime. However, WKU, behind the play of Slaughter, built a five-point lead with 3:19 left. But Vanderbilt would go on an 8-2 run to finish the half. Taylor's dunk as time in the first half expired gave the Commodores 38-37 lead at the break.

Taylor led Vandy in scoring with 21. Beal, despite not starting, logged 27 minutes playing time and scored 12 points. The Hilltoppers out rebounded Vanderbilt, 40-24.

After the game Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings discussed the starting lineup change, "You have to acknowledge effort or lack thereof. Your most talented guys, if they're not playing with the effort that is needed, tears the fabric of the team apart. It's not a team-wide thing. We've got guys giving great effort, but we have key guys not giving the effort we need."

Vanderbilt falls to 6-3 with the loss. The Commodores next host Tennessee State on Saturday, December 19th. Western Kentucky (5-3) will visit Louisville on December 19th. Vanderbilt now leads the all-time series with WKU, 13-11.

Vanderbilt forward Jeffery Taylor, center, goes for a rebound between Western Kentucky teammates Jeremy Evans (40) and Jameson Tipping (13) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Nashville, Tenn., Friday, Dec. 11, 2009. (AP Photo/Frederick Breedon) Top Stories