- Saturday, January 20 2007 -
Vanderbilt - 72 (Head Coach: Kevin Stallings) - [Unranked]
|Ross Neltner (*)||29||3||7||2||2||0||0||0||4||4||2||2||1||1||0||8|
Kentucky - 67 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 25th by AP and NR by ESPN/USA Today]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 33, Vanderbilt 32
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|South Carolina 87 - 49|||||Georgia 69 - 78 OT|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
'Dore slammed: Vandy ends Cats' streak
Tubby Smith saw it coming, sensing his Kentucky team was riding a little too high after a 38-point road victory to extend its winning streak to 11 games. Turns out Smith was right and the Cats' wouldn't see their run reach a dozen games.
Vanderbilt, who had never won in Rupp Arena until last season, claimed its second straight in the venerable arena by shocking the Cats 72-67 before 24,282 fans. It was the third consecutive victory by Vandy over UK and the fourth in the last six meeting between the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division rivals.
And Smith saw it all coming before the Cats even took the floor.
"We need to deal with prosperity a little better," Smith said. "I tried to allude to that earlier this week. Coming off the win in South Carolina I was curious how this team handled it and we certainly showed we didn't come with the proper focus. We were never able to get into a rhythm or flow in anything we did.
"It's all about attitude. They don't understand until it actually happens. You play the way you practice. That's it in a nutshell."
Smith cautioned during his day before press conference that his team did not have the kind of practice coming off the South Carolina win that it had throughout most of the winning streak. Although mostly viewed as coach speak, Smith's words seemed prophetic after the Cats reverted back to many of the bad habits it displayed in three early season losses.
The Commodores shot lights out, connecting on 50 percent from the field and hit 11 three-pointers to stave off every UK spurt. The Commodores hit 15 triples in their previous game against Alabama and continued the hot streak in Rupp as the Cats yielded numerous wide open looks from long range. The result was four Commodores' players hitting at least two threes, led by Derrick Byars' four in a 23-point effort.
"We tried to let the players know they were a great three-point shooting team and you have to get out on the threes," Smith said. "We did a very poor job. I'm very disappointed with the defense and the way we defended their threes. It wasn't what it had been. "They caught us watching the ball instead of being in a position to help. I'm disappointed but not surprised with the way we defended."
Smith's blunt description of the Cats' defense was met with lukewarm agreement by the players, which perhaps is the reason they allowed Vandy open looks at every critical juncture of the game, including a Dan Cage dagger from the corner in transition to give the 'Dores a 65-56 lead with 1:19 to play.
"We didn't take away their shots," senior forward Bobby Perry said. "We knew they were a three-point shooting team and we didn't take it away."
"It's not enough just to get a hand in their face," junior center Randolph Morris said. "You have to take (the shot) away completely."
Despite being outplayed most of the game UK actually took a 59-58 lead with 2:56 remaining on an off balance Ramel Bradley jumper. The shot followed consecutive possessions where UK could have taken the lead but made unforced turnovers that prevented even getting a shot off.
Having not scored in more than four minutes, Vanderbilt answered right back with a long Shan Foster jumper at 2:05 to kick start a 10-0 run that salted the game away. Included in the spurt were two transition baskets - a Derrick Byars lay-in and Cage's three-pointer - where the Cats failed to get back on defense. It also raised questions as to why UK did not have point guard Derrick Jasper in the game in the closing minutes after Smith admitted the day before that he was the reason for the Cats' winning streak.
Still, the Cats' loss was more about them than it was Vanderbilt.
"It's always tough to handle success and respond the right way," Perry said. "When things are going right everyone wants to pat you on the back and it's really easy to start feeling good about yourself."
Now the questions becomes how the Cats deal with disappointment.
Sheray Thomas shoots over Ross Neltner
Ramel Bradley (#3) shoots
Jodie Meeks (#20) makes a late-game reverse