The ‘Dores put the nation on notice with their hard-fought victory. The star of the game was easily Jermaine Beal. He hit a number of key baskets, specifically in the 18-4 run that broke the game wide open late in the second half. Both coach simply raved about his performance:
"I thought maybe our biggest basket of the night was when they got up six points, and Jermaine Beal came down from 14 feet or so and hit a jumper and I called time-out," coach Kevin Stallings said. "If we do not score there, they are on a run and we have got some issues perhaps. It was a great game to win - a great second half by our team. I thought Beal was absolutely spectacular in the second half and I am really proud of him. That was a terrific game for him."
"Beal was special," said Vols coach Bruce Pearl. "Part of our success against Vanderbilt in the past was that we had got the better of him. Everybody talks about A.J. Ogilvy whether he's a factor, but, in my mind, Beal has always been the guy that has made the team go. If you look at his numbers the last couple of years versus our point guard, we've done well. Tonight he was dominant, and he was focused."
Will Beal leading the predominately sophomore squad, its looks like there isn't much of a ceiling to this year's team. There are now only four "BCS" schools that are undefeated in conference play. The list is an impressive one to be a part of: Villanova, Kansas, Michigan State, and Vanderbilt. The victory over Tennessee has given Vandy a seat at the big boys table.
In a majority of mid-week polls, Vanderbilt has skyrocketed up the rankings. ESPN.com has them at 14, while SI.com has the Commodores at 13. A win over Kentucky will likely shoot them into the top 10 in the AP and Coaches' polls.
Knocking off the Wildcats will be easier said than done.
John Calipari will have had his team's full attention this week. The loss at South Carolina was embarrassing and a huge letdown after securing the Wildcats' first number one ranking since 2004. Between the loss and the recent accusations that DeMarcus Cousins punched a South Carolina student as he was leaving the court; Kentucky has a lot of reasons to play well.
I've heard a lot of Vanderbilt fans say that all the pressure is off the team. The idea is that the ‘Dores will be able to go into Lexington and play very loose. Well, that all sounds good, but once that crowd gets rocking, the nerves and excitement will come roaring back. In a lot of ways, Kentucky does need this game a lot more than Vandy. They need their swagger back. If Vandy can somehow win in Rupp, you better invite all your friends to jump on the Commodore Bandwagon quickly before it fills up.
Check out Eric's blog at DorePosts.com
Adams: Beal 's play a big deal
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