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Kentucky come back from 19 down to beat Vanderbilt

By Darrell Bird, The Sports Xchange

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- No. 9 Kentucky clinched at least tie for its 48th Southeastern Conference championship on Tuesday night with a 73-67 victory over Vanderbilt.

Kentucky (25-5, 15-2) can claim the title outright with a win at Texas A&M on Saturday. Vanderbilt (16-14, 9-8) ends the regular season at home Saturday against No. 12 Florida.

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Freshman guard Malik Monk paced the win with 27 points. Freshman forward Bam Adebayo added 16 and freshman guard De'Aaron Fox had 13. UK shot 57.7 percent in the second half to complete the comeback.

Vanderbilt got 21 points from senior forward Like Kornet. The Commodores shot 44.9 percent and made 11 3-pointers. But that was offset by 25 turnovers, including 17 in the second half when Vandy lost its double-digit lead.

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After trailing by 19 points early and by 13 points midway through the second half, Kentucky finally overtook Vanderbilt with 4:47 to play on a 3-pointer by Willis to make it 59-57. It was part of a 25-10 run with Adebayo and Monk each scoring seven points. Vanderbilt committed 12 turnovers in the first 12 minutes as the lead melted away.

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The 19-point comeback was the biggest for the Wildcats in the tenure of head coach John Calipari.

The game remained tight down the stretch with a 16-foot jumper by Fox putting UK on top to stay at 64-62 with 1:46 remaining. After a Vanderbilt turnover, an offensive rebound putback by Isaiah Briscoe gave UK it's biggest lead, 66-62 with 1:34.

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A Monk 3-pointer salted the game away at 69-62 with :49 seconds to go. It capped a 7-0 run by Kentucky. Monk added four more free throws with :21.1 and 11.2 for good measure.

Despite the fanfare of Kentucky's Senior Night, complete with a marriage proposal from senior Derek Willis to girlfriend Keely Potts -- she said yes -- it was Vanderbilt that came out on fire, racing to a 7-0 lead. Senior guard Nolan Cressler scored five points.

Vandy pushed the lead to 19 points at 25-6 with 8:02 in the first half. Vandy was shooting 50 percent with five 3-pointers while Kentucky was 2-for-17 with six turnovers. A Mychal Mulder 3-pointer with 7:43 stopped the bleeding, making it 25-9 at the under 8:00 timeout.

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Mulder's basket started a 9-0 Kentucky run to make it 25-15 and by the end of the first half, Kentucky had outscored Vanderbilt 18-5 to make it 30-24 at the break. Adebayo scored six points. Mulder and Monk each had five.

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NOTES: Kentucky honored Dominique Hawkins, Derek Willis and Mychal Mulder on Senior Night. The trio combines to average 16.5 points per game, the best output from a senior class since John Calipari arrived at UK in 2009. ... Malik Monk, De'Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo make up the nation's top scoring freshman trio at 50.2 points per game. ... Kentucky and Vanderbilt met for the 189th time on Tuesday. Only Tennessee has faced Vandy more.

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