- Saturday, January 10 2009 -
Vanderbilt - 60 (Head Coach: Kevin Stallings) - [Unranked]
Kentucky - 70 (Head Coach: Billy Gillispie) - [Unranked]
|A. J. Stewart||10||0||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||1||1||0||0||1||1||0|
Halftime Score: Kentucky 31, Vanderbilt 27
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Louisville 71 - 74|||||Tennessee 90 - 72|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats pass first SEC test, defeat Vandy
Kentucky's basketball team had been a two-man show this season, so much so no one was quite sure how it would react when Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks had anything less than their 'A' games on the same day.
The answer came in the Southeastern Conference opener, as UK managed to overcome a slow start and finish in outlasting Vanderbilt 70-60 in front of 24,249 fans at Rupp Arena. The Cats fell behind by seven early, recovered to take a 20-point lead in the second half, then watched the Commodores slice the deficit to 66-60 with under a minute to go before closing it out.
Although the victory wasn't always aesthetically pleasing it came on an afternoon when Patterson had just 11 points and a career-low one rebound and Meeks missed 11 field goal attempts. Still, the Cats found alternative scoring options against one of the nation's top field goal percentage defenses.
"They did a good job on Jodie and Pat and some other guys stepped up," guard Michael Porter said. "We know it's going to happen pretty much every game so other guys are going to have to step up and we did that. Sometimes we just need that for other guys' confidence or to prove to ourselves we can do it."
Enter unlikely scorer Ramon Harris. More noted for his defense and intangibles Harris turned into a complimentary point producer by chipping in a dozen. His two made three-pointers where double the one he had all season entering the game and his seven rebounds was the second highest total for him on the year.
"He's a really good player," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "He hurt us, he sure did."
Vanderbilt was hurting as well. Playing without their best player in Ogilvy– who was out with a bruised heel - the Commodores took it right at UK for much of the first half. As they have done some many times in recent meetings the 'Dores came out blistering hot from beyond the arc, making the first four they took in piling up an early 20-13 advantage.
The Cats began to gain some footing with the least likely lineup after Patterson went to the bench with two fouls. Josh Harrellson, A.J. Stewart and Porter all contributed unexpected jumpers during a late run that gave the Cats a 31-27 halftime lead.
The lead swelled to 55-35 on the strength of a 13-0 UK run fueled by defense and transition points. After the torrid start Vanderbilt couldn't throw it in the ocean, missing 14 of the next 15 three-pointers it took before a mini-spurt at the end left the Rupp crowd uneasy. What looked like it would end in a laugher was anything but down the stretch. Vanderbilt turned up the full court pressure and ripped off a 13-2 spurt to give them one final chance in the closing minute but it missed six shots on one possession and UK added four free throws in the final 47 seconds to seal the deal.
"We made a couple of shots and we got a couple of deflections and steals," Stallings said. "Maybe Kentucky got a little casual and thought they had the game won."
UK coach Billy Gillispie pointed out the final score was the most important thing but did mention his team would learn from some silly mental errors down the stretch – none more of a cardinal sin than Harrellson fouling Jermaine Beal – who had 18 points to lead Vandy – on a three-pointer with 2:19 remaining.
"All of that got started when Jodie got beat backdoor and then took a really bad shot on the other end," Gillispie said. "It's a situation we really haven't been in all that much. Next time I think we'll perform better when it gets late."
Meanwhile, the Cats learned they could beat a quality opponent without 50 points from their two bell cows.
"(Patrick's) a big part of our team so when he's not having his greatest game and we're able to pull out a win it says a lot about this team," Meeks said. "This is the time where everybody on the team has to step up and this was the beginning of that."
Perry Stevenson is trapped between Vanderbilt's Festus Ezeli and Darshawn McClellan
Patrick Patterson defends against Jermaine Beal
Ramon Harris celebrates after a made 3-point basket