- Saturday, January 30 2010 -
Vanderbilt - 72 (Head Coach: Kevin Stallings) - [Ranked 21st by AP and 23rd by ESPN/USA Today]
Kentucky - 85 (Head Coach: John Calipari) - [Ranked 1st by AP and 1st by ESPN/USA Today]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 49, Vanderbilt 34
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|South Carolina 62 - 68|||||Mississippi 85 - 75|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats beat Vanderbilt, claim SEC East lead
With basketball royalty in the house Kentucky proved it is still the king of the Southeastern Conference and the favorite to wear the league crown.
The Cats (20-1, 5-1 SEC) held a double-digit lead for the final 32 minutes on their way to an 85-72 victory over league-leading Vanderbilt before 24,339 fans at Rupp Arena. The game took had a regal flair when NBA superstar LeBron James took his courtside seat eight minutes into the contest before later doing the 'Y' in Kentucky at a second half media timeout.
The game itself was anything but splendid, as the teams were whistled for 58 combined fouls (two technicals) and shot 70 free throws in the disjointed affair. The Cats jumped to a 21-11 lead and never let the advantage dip into single digits again, pushing it to as large as 19 points in the second half.
The impressive bounce back after its only defeat of the season put UK back in the driver's seat as the calendar flips to February.
"We wanted to come out and prove something," freshman guard John Wall said. "We wanted to show people we weren't going to back away and one loss wasn't going to get us down. Our coaches told us we were playing for a No. 1 spot. I think we responded well. We got up on them and didn't let them come back. Coach told us they were a team that wouldn't go away so we knew they'd fight hard, but we held them at bay and got the win."
"We have a will to win," junior forward Patrick Patterson added. "We want to fight and want to battle. Coach told us Vanderbilt was going to be a tough game and just as good as us, so we wanted to come out and play well. We don't back down. We step up to a challenge."
DeMarcus Cousins set the tone from the outset, creating three 'and-one' plays in the first 7:39 on his way to a game-high 21 points and 10 rebounds. The irrepressible big man was again a show unto himself by bulling through the Commodores' array of big man - including star A.J. Ogilvy - while also drawing a technical foul in the second half for demonstratively arguing a goaltending call.
Still, Cousins' physicality in the post had Vanderbilt on its heels and facing a significant deficit before it ever really got into the contest. Eight of Cousins' 10 rebounds came on the offensive end and helped the Cats turn what was a big negative against South Carolina into a 20-2 edge in second chance points (they were outscored 22-9 in that area against the Gamecocks.
"He's a beast," UK coach John Calipari said. "You have to foul him to keep him away from the glass, foul him to keep him from scoring and now he's making free throws. He played 24 minutes and got 21 points and 10 rebounds, that's just stupid. Ridiculous. If he could stay out of foul trouble he'd be scoring 40 points and 23 rebounds a game. He's a beast."
Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings was of the same opinion as Calipari.
"He really had his way with us," Stallings said. "He was a big factor in the game. A lot has been made about John Wall, and deservedly so, but Cousins is just as much a factor right now for their team. He is really quickly becoming a dominant inside player."
As impressive as Cousins' performance was he was hardly the only Cat who showed up to play. When the Commodores (16-4, 5-1) threatened to slice the lead under 10 with under 10 minutes remaining UK forward Darnell Dodson bailed the Cats out with eight straight points to hold the 'Dores at bay. The sometimes-puzzling sophomore drew his first start since the season opener and then buried a pair of three-pointers that never allowed the lead to slip into dangerous waters.
"They made shots they haven't been making, or making at as high a rate as they did," Stallings said. "When they shoot that well they are obviously very difficult to deal with."
Not that Stallings was surprised.
"They got their butts beat (at South Carolina) so what do you think when you're the opposing coach coming in here?" Stallings said. "John has been on their rear ends since (that game). We knew they'd be cranked up."
And now, back on top.
DeMarcus Cousins (#15) works around Vanderbilt's A.J. Ogilvy
Patrick Patterson (#54) reaches into a mass of arms for the ball
Special guest Lebron James gives his approval