- Tuesday, January 14 2003 -
Kentucky - 74 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 16th by AP]
Vanderbilt - 52 (Head Coach: Kevin Stallings) - [Unranked]
|Scott Hundley (*)||15||1||2||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||3||3|
Halftime Score: Vanderbilt 36, Kentucky 28
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|South Carolina 62 - 55|||||Notre Dame 88 - 73|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Rip and run: UK turns up heat, drills Vandy
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Pardon Kentucky if it thought it had stumbled into a horrific Groundhog's Day movie, but 10 minutes into the Cats' showdown with Vanderbilt at Memorial Gym, the game mirrored UK's meltdown here last season.
But UK (12-3, 3-0 SEC) snapped out of its nightmare, turned up the pressure, and scored an improbable 74-52 victory in front of 14,168 fans at Memorial Gym.
Vanderbilt (8-6, 1-2) blitzed UK 25-11 to start the game, including five consecutive three-pointers, knocking UK back on its heels and dominating play. But the Cats regrouped and cut the deficit to eight at intermission, then played perhaps their best half of defensive basketball in the Tubby Smith era in the second half, routing Vandy 46-16 over the 20 minutes.
In that second half, UK held Vandy to just four field goals on 4-of-17 shooting (23.5 percent), while also forcing 13 turnovers, 12 of which were Cat steals. For the game, UK held a 31-9 edge in points off turnovers and had 15 steals.
"Obviously, Kentucky played a great game," Vandy Coach Kevin Stallings said. "Based on the film I've seen, that second half was the best they've played all season long."
Smith agreed, but said it did not take a paint-peeling tirade at the half to jolt UK. Instead, Smith went to a smaller lineup by inserting Cliff Hawkins into the lineup to start the second half in place of Chuck Hayes. The move also woke Hayes up, who scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds after taking a goose egg in the first half.
"The kids knew this was an important game," Smith said. "I told them if we could get close at the half, there was a good chance we could turn things around.
"The guys knew we were bad in the first half. I challenged them to come out, be men and not back down. I sensed we were a little intimidated early."
Vanderbilt, who had knocked off Top 5-ranked Alabama on the same floor just days earlier, used those five threes to rattle the Cats early and gain momentum. In the run, freshman Mario Moore drilled a trio of threes, and Matt Freije added two more. To show how zoned in the Commodores were, Moore entered the game having hit just 8-of-26 from deep, but scored a career-high 12 points in just 10 minutes.
That all changed though, as Hawkins' on-the-ball pressure and UK's suffocating halfcourt man-to-man defense (which had been maligned earlier in the week), dominated Vandy.
"Oh yeah, it's not even close," Smith said of whether it was UK's best defensive effort of the year. "That's what we've been trying to get over to the players. If we defend the way we are capable, we have a chance in every game."
They can also avoid being stuck in Groundhog's Day.