- Tuesday, January 10 2006 -
Vanderbilt - 57 (Head Coach: Kevin Stallings) - [Unranked]
Kentucky - 52 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Vanderbilt 23, Kentucky 20
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|Kansas 46 - 73|||||Alabama 64 - 68|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Morris return can't stop Cats' slide
Randolph Morris' return from NCAA exile was supposed to be just the tonic Kentucky needed to get a fresh start on its swiftly collapsing season.
Just as UK coach Tubby Smith cautioned, Morris wasn't the answer to all of the Cats' problems. Despite playing a solid game, Morris couldn't lift the Cats out of their free fall, allowing Vanderbilt to pull out a 57-52 victory. It was the Commodores' first win at Rupp Arena in 29 tries. The loss dropped UK to 10-5 on the season and was signaled the first back-to-back losses for the Cats since January 5th and 9th of 2002.
"I'm at a loss for words," senior guard Ravi Moss said. "I don't know what it is. This is a low.
"We've got to climb out (of the hole). We are not going to lay down. We have to do whatever we have to get back on top. This is a huge loss, but we have 15 more games."
Although the effort was much better than in the blowout loss to Kansas, UK's offense was atrocious yet again, never allowing the Cats to take advantage of a defense that held Vanderbilt to 34 percent shooting for the game. Instead, UK led for less than two minutes the entire game and critical mistakes and poor shot selection down the stretch crippled any chance the Cats had of surviving the brutal offensive effort.
"I thought the guys played hard and we had our chances," UK coach Tubby Smith said. "We are struggling awfully bad on the offensive end. In a critical game like this every possession counts."
UK fell behind 8-0 in the game's first three minutes and led just once the entire game when Sheray Thomas converted a dunk off a Lukasz Obrzut pass to give the Cats a 42-41 lead with 6:49 remaining in the game. Vanderbilt scored the next five points to regain control of the game, then held off numerous UK chances over the final three minutes.
The Cats looked dead in the water with 15 minutes remaining when Shan Foster buried a wide open three-pointer to push Vanderbilt's lead to a game-high 14 points at 37-23. With UK struggling mightily to even get a shot near the rim, it appeared as though the Cats had little chance of responding.
When it appeared darkest though, UK rallied. The Cats jumped started a 19-4 run with four free throws before Joe Crawford threw up a prayer in the lane that was answered to pull UK within 39-29 with 12:26 left. The bucket was UK's first field goal of the second half.
From there it was the Ravi Moss show. Perhaps UK's last true link to the toughness and heart that has defined the program the past three years, Moss buried a long three-pointer from the top of the key to make it 39-32, then drilled two more over the next three minutes to pull the Cats within one at 41-40. Moss rebounded a Mario Moore missed free throw on the ensuing possession that set up the Thomas dunk to give UK it's only lead of the game.
"I thought we did what we needed to do to get back in the lead," Moss said. "We were doing what we used to do, but then we just didn't have it.
"We are so used to pulling these games out. The last three years we always found a way. We are not finding ways this year and that goes back to the seniors."
UK didn't find a way this time because of mistakes in the closing minutes. The Cats stopped Vandy when it had the lead, but watched as Ramel Bradley dribbled around for 15 seconds before hoisting a long jumper. With UK trailing 46-45 and just over three minutes left, Bradley had a pass stolen by Foster, who turned it into a three-point play on the other end.
Still, it wasn't over. Derrick Byars clanged a three-pointer with a 49-46 lead, only to watch Rajon Rondo miss a quick free throw line jumper. Moss, who had 14 points in the second half, had a three from the corner blocked by Byars with just over a minute left and Byars drilled a pull-up jumper in transition to push the edge back to 52-48.
"A bad shot," Moss said. "It was stupid."
After Joe Crawford forced a baseline drive against three defenders and the Commodores moved out to a 53-48 lead, the Cats closed to 55-52 with 17.8 seconds left and caught a huge break when Foster stepped out of bounds while being trapped in the corner. UK did not have a timeout to set up a play and had to settled for a long Crawford three-point attempt that clanged off the right side of the rim to seal the defeat.
"We made a couple of boneheaded plays and in a game like this, those plays really hurt you," Crawford said.
Morris drew a thunderous ovation when he was sent to the scorer's table just 2:45 into the game, but not even his 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks was enough to save UK from itself.
Ravi Moss (#2) grabs a rebound from teammate Lukasz Obrzut
Randolph Morris (#33) returns to the lineup, shooting against Ted Skuchas
Rajon Rondo (#4) drives while Bobby Perry (#13) looks on