Vanderbilt outplays No. 16 Kentucky

By Darrell Bird, The Sports Xchange  |  Feb. 28, 2016 at 1:07 AM
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Kentucky freshman Jamal Murray scored 21 of his 33 points in the first half, but a disastrous second half by the Wildcats led to Vanderbilt posting a 74-62 upset victory on Saturday at Memorial Gymnasium.

"Proud of my team, proud of how hard we played," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "I thought our second-half defense was really, really strong and, honestly, it's been very weak most of the season. We've been pretty good defensively in the first half, not very good in the second, but we were today and we needed to be."

The loss dropped Kentucky back into a tie for first place in the Southeastern Conference with Texas A&M and left coach John Calipari with an uneasy feeling with only one week left in the regular season.

"This was like an NCAA Tournament and some of our guys didn't ring the bell," Calipari said. "Now you worry, can they ring the bell? I'm not giving up on anybody, but you have to want this. You want to be in the fray. You can't be afraid."

Vanderbilt (18-11, 10-6) outscored Kentucky 38-23 in the second half to rally from an eight-point first-half deficit and win going away. Kentucky (21-8, 11-5) made only 7 of 26 shots in the second half, including 2 of 13 from 3-point range. By comparison, the Wildcats shot 55.2 percent in the first half.

For Vanderbilt, it was the exact reversal. The Commodores shot only 40.6 percent in the first half, but improved to 43.3 percent after intermission. Most telling, Vanderbilt outrebounded Kentucky 24-17 in the second half after losing the board battle 20-15 in the first half.

"The game got rough," Calipari said. "Either you relish that or you run from that."

Vanderbilt was led in scoring by sophomore guard Matthew Fisher-Davis with 20 points. He made 7-of-12 shots. Sophomore forward Jeff Roberson added 16 points, junior center Damian Jones had 15 and sophomore guard Wade Baldwin scored 14. Junior forward Luke Kornet topped Vandy in rebounding with 11 to go with eight points.

"Their frontcourt players were better than us today," Calipari said. "They weren't when we played in Lexington. Ours were better. I don't have an answer for that. They took it right at us and we didn't have an answer."

Murray, who has now scored 20 points or more in eight straight games, scored 21 of Kentucky's 39 points in the first half. He made 8-of-11 field-goal attempts, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range.

In the second half, Murray made just 4 of 9 shots and didn't score a basket over the last six minutes. Sophomore guard Tyler Ulis was the only other Kentucky player to reach double figures. He had 12 points, but like Murray, endured disastrous shooting. Ulis made only 5 of 20 shots and was 0 of 7 from 3-point range.

The biggest issue for Kentucky was a lack of production from its interior players. Junior forward Marcus Lee said afterwards that Calipari was most upset by the fact the big men didn't do enough to assist the guards, who were doing all the scoring.

Calipari countered that claim.

"I don't think that's true," the coach said. "I don't think they contributed anything."

UK's four interior players took just five shots and Lee was the only post man to even score. All told, the Wildcats only had four players score points in the loss and three were guards.

"Bad misses, demoralizing misses," Calipari said. "But these kids are not machines, they had a rough game. When you have a young team, these are all learning experiences. We're going home to get ready for our next game."

Kentucky's largest lead of the first half was eight points at 38-30 with just over four minutes remaining. But Vanderbilt outscored the Wildcats 6-1 down the stretch to make it 39-36 at halftime.

Thanks to Murray, Kentucky shot 55.2 percent in the first half. He also had all four of the Wildcats' 3-pointers.

Kentucky, which has struggled at times with rebounding, won the board battle in the first half 20-15. Murray was tops with six rebounds.

Vanderbilt was led in the first half by Fisher-Davis, who had 12 points. Kornet and Baldwin each had seven points.

NOTES: Because of injuries to Tyler Ulis, Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee and Derek Willis, Kentucky has had its full roster available in only eight of 28 games this season. Willis was out for the Vanderbilt game with a sprained ankle. ... Kentucky freshman G Jamal Murray has made a 3-pointer in all 28 games this season. ... PG Tyler Ulis' 3.7 assist-to-turnover ratio is ninth best in the nation. ... Vanderbilt's 3-point defense (28.5 percent) ranks No. 2 in the nation. The Commodores' overall field goal percentage defense (38.0) ranks No. 6. ... Vanderbilt is the only team in America starting two 7-footers in Luke Kornet and Damian Jones.

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