NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Plagued by foul trouble, Vanderbilt tried its best to keep up with Kentucky's high-powered offense but fell short in an 87-81 loss to the No. 6 Wildcats on Tuesday evening at Memorial Gym.
Kentucky's three guards -- Isaiah Briscoe (23 points), De'Aaron Fox (22) and Malik Monk (18) -- proved to be a headache for the Commodores' zone defense. The three hit a slew of layups and short baseline jumpers, which was a good thing for the Wildcats, who were only 1 of 9 on 3-point attempts.
Forward Bam Adebayo added 15 points for the Wildcats (14-2, 4-0 SEC).
Matthew Fisher-Davis, Riley LaChance and Jeff Roberson scored 19 points apiece for the Commodores (8-8, 2-2).
The guard trio was Kentucky's offense down the stretch, scoring the team's last 27 points over the final 12:31.
Every time Vanderbilt punched, one would convert on a short shot or a free throw. The biggest came when Monk got into the lane and hit a short pull-up with 32 seconds left, putting the Wildcats up 83-79.
Vanderbilt successfully slowed the tempo as much as it could. The Commodores turned it over only seven times, and Kentucky had eight fast-break points.
"Today we showed people we're not just a transition team, we can execute in the half court offense," Briscoe said.
Briscoe was particularly dangerous, also passing out a game-high five assists.
"He's very quick with the ball and their bigs take a lot of space up and opened up a lot of lanes for their guards to get to the rim," Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said.
After Roberson countered with a stick-back with 18 seconds left, the Commodores fouled Monk, who hit a pair of free throws a second later to ice the game.
Trouble hit Vanderbilt, which dresses only nine players, early in the second half. Point guard Payton Willis was whistled for his third and fourth fouls in the first 19 seconds and minutes later, center Luke Kornet was called for his fourth at 16:54.
Neither fouled out, but the damage was done.
By 12:54, the Wildcats were in the bonus, and they soon built the lead to seven, at which point Drew brought Willis and Kornet back.
It was the right gamble as Kentucky never built the lead higher, but the Commodores had to play more passively against the Wildcats' dribble-drive offense, which frequently converted short looks.
Kentucky started the game with a 9-0 run, but coach John Calipari quickly benched Monk and Fox as they picked up their second fouls at 16:54 and 16:43, respectively. Things worsened when reserve guard Dominque Hawkins was called for his second at 13:38, which put the Commodores in the bonus.
Vanderbilt took a 17-15 lead when Kornet canned a 3-pointer at 12:57, but the Commodores began to accumulate fouls, too, putting the Wildcats in the bonus at 9:25.
It was close the remainder of the first half, with Kentucky taking a 45-41 advantage at the break after Briscoe dropped in a layup in the half's final seconds.
After winning their first three SEC games by 23, 42, and 26 points, the Wildcats were finally challenged. Calipari repeatedly took responsibility for how his freshman-dominated team not playing disciplined enough, but was still pleased with the outcome.
"When we win a game, there's not relief for me, there's joy. And, it was a hard-fought game, which makes me even happier," Calipari said.
The Commodores made 40 3-pointers in their first three SEC games, and hit 44 percent of their shots in those contests behind the arc, but were 8 for 29 on Tuesday.
NOTES: Coaches John Calipari and Bryce Drew faced each other for the first time. ... Vanderbilt extended its streak of games with made 3-pointers to 980 when G Matthew Fisher-Davis hit one at 15:35 of the first half. The Commodores hit a 3-pointer in every game since the shot was instituted in the 1986-87 season. ... A fan hit a half-court shot at halftime to win a three-year car lease. ... Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh attended the game.