- Saturday, February 20 2010 -
Kentucky - 58 (Head Coach: John Calipari) - [Ranked 2nd by AP and 2nd by ESPN/USA Today]
Vanderbilt - 56 (Head Coach: Kevin Stallings) - [Ranked 17th by AP and 19th by ESPN/USA Today]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 27, Vanderbilt 25
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Mississippi State 81 - 75 OT|||||South Carolina 82 - 61|
Game Writeup - by Matt May,
Cats hold the magic
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - There was no magic at Memorial Gym, just a knockdown, drag out, street fight between the Southeastern Conference's two best squads.
By emerging bloodied but unbowed Kentucky took a stranglehold on the conference race, moving the equivalent of three games ahead in the standings with four to play.
John Wall made a lay-up in traffic upon retrieving a ball he had stripped, blocked Vanderbilt's potential game-winning three-pointer by John Jenkins and made three free throws all in the final 39.1 seconds to give UK a 58-56 victory in front of a frenzied capacity crowd of 14,317 at the opera-style venue.
"That is exactly the win I love to have, and on the road," UK coach John Calipari said. "You've got to grind it. You've got to be a team that is able to grind it. Everybody knows we want to play fast and try to score 100 but if you want to play in the fifties we'll try to beat you that way. This was one of those. I love this."
The two teams that rank No. 1 and 2 in the league in scoring at just shy of 80 points per game didn't best that by very much combined in the ragged defensive struggle. The Cats (26-1, 11-1) made 35.8 percent from the field, a scorching effort compared to Vanderbilt's 32.1 percent, but the Commodores 2-of-20 effort from three-point range was by far their worst of the season.
"What I like is the last five or six minutes of this game and the last three minutes of the Mississippi State game we were about as good as there is going to be," Calipari said. "If we're going to advance that's what it will be on and if we make shots we'll bury people.
"Early in the season they were so young we didn't understand how to play three-point shooter and we were the worst in the country. We were just awful, but we've gotten better."
It's a good thing UK played Venus Flytrap defense because neither team was able to create much rhythm on offense in their second meeting of the season. Vanderbilt (20-6, 9-3) had managed just one field in eight minutes, falling behind 53-49 with 2:57 remaining after an 8-0 UK run, but got back-to-back buckets in the lane to tie the game with 1:05 left.
Enter John Wall.
The National Player of the Year candidate somehow scooped up his own loose ball under the basket to give UK the lead with 39.1 seconds remaining then added a pair of free throws with 19.9 seconds left after Lance Goulbourne missed an open three-pointer from the left corner. Jenkins swished a three from the same corner Goulbourne missed moments before to pull Vandy within a point then had a chance to win it after UK's Eric Bledsoe missed a pair of free throws with 11.4 seconds left.
"I saw it, he has great defense," UK forward Patrick Patterson said. "They kicked it back to Jenkins and John was right there with his hand up. He tried to ball fake and John timed it perfectly and went up got the block, got the rebound and got fouled. He knew we would need a big play down the stretch and he made it."
Wall made one of two free throws with 2.5 seconds left to give the Cats a two-point lead but Calipari's decision to call a timeout nearly backfired when Vanderbilt's Darshawn McClellan connected with A.J. Ogilvy on a baseball pass to the opposite three-point line. Ogilvy spun and threw up a free throw line runner that clanged high off the rim as the buzzer sounded, sending the Cats streaming down the court in celebration.
"Once again we came together and locked up," UK forward DeMarcus Cousins said. "We came together and made it happen."
John Wall (#11) with a rare breakaway dunk
Patrick Patterson (#54) missed a dunk
John Wall (#11) makes a key block near the end of the game against John Jenkins (#23)