Since February 15, the basketball Wildcats have put up five impressive wins: A tough road victory over a gritty Mississippi State team; an impressive showing against then-number 10 Tennessee, which was aching for revenge after the Cats’ win in Knoxville; a win over Florida that saw two UK players not named Oscar post double-doubles; an absolute beat-down of an Auburn team that was supposed to be one of the top defensive teams in the country; and an unexpected pounding in Fayetteville of an Arkansas team that had embarrassed Kentucky in Rupp Arena almost a month prior.
But sprinkled into all that goodness are two sourballs that fittingly represent the anchor that is dragging this team down: Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Vanderbilt Commodores.
They ruined Senior Night in Lexington and now they’ve spoiled the 2023 SEC Tournament for the Big Blue Nation that once again took temporary ownership of the ‘Dores hometown. As we speak, the Nashville city fathers no doubt are privately weeping into their white win as UK fans head back north and taking their money with them. Even the folks who paid for their rooms through Sunday morning and still might decide to stick around likely won’t be spending as fervently as they would have, if only their heroes had survived and advanced.
Kentucky shot poorly, from the field and especially the free throw line, where it left a copious amount of points on the Bridgestone Arena floor. And even though they rebounded, particularly on the offensive glass, the Cats once again couldn’t figure out a way defensively to stop Vandy from getting to the rim. And so they go home to rest, lick their wounds and await Selection Sunday.
Trouble is, the Commodores twice have shown the nation that if you have the right combination of shot-makers and skilled backcourt players, your team could be the next one that eliminates the mighty Kentucky Wildcats.
Here’s how it happened, by the numbers:
Final Score: RV/RV Vanderbilt 80, No. 23/24 Kentucky 73
Team Records and Series Notes
- Kentucky is 21-11 overall.
- Vanderbilt is 20-13 overall and has won 10 of its last 11 games.
- Kentucky leads the overall series, 155-49. VU leads 6-5 in SEC Tournament games.
- The teams split during the regular season — Kentucky winning 69-53 at Vanderbilt on January 24 and VU winning 68-66 in Rupp Arena on March 1.
- Next for the Wildcats: Kentucky returns to Lexington to await Sunday’s NCAA Selection Show.
Kentucky in the SEC Tournament
- Kentucky is now 135-29 all-time in the SEC Tournament.
- UK is 46-12 in the quarterfinal round of the tourney but tonight saw an end to a seven-game win streak in the quarters.
- UK won the rebounding 43-26, leading to a 20-4 advantage in second-chance points.
- UK is 21-6 this season when winning the rebounding.
- Kentucky led by as many as 10 points. UK is 328-14 (95.9%) under John Calipari when leading by at least 10 points at some time during the game.
- UK had two 20-point scorers for the seventh time this season. UK is 5-2 in those games.
- UK had two players with double-doubles. It is the fifth time this season, UK is 4-1 in those games.
- Antonio Reeves had 22 points, his ninth 20-point game of the season.
- Jacob Toppin had 21 points and 11 rebounds, his eighth double-double of the season. This was UK’s first loss of the season when he had a double-double.
- He has scored double figures in 14 of the last 15 games.
- Oscar Tshiebwe collected 19 points and 15 rebounds.
- This is his 19th double-double of the season and 47th in 64 games at Kentucky.
- Cason Wallace returned from injury and played 37 minutes, totaling seven points, four rebounds and five assists.
Coach John Calipari
- Calipari has an 831-252 all-time on-court record and is 386-112 in 14 seasons at UK.
- UK is 317-64 (83.2%) against unranked competition under Calipari.
- Calipari is 168-57 (74.7%) as a collegiate head coach in games played in March and April.
- Calipari is 25-6 vs. Vanderbilt, all coming at Kentucky.
In the First Half
- Kentucky starters were Cason Wallace, Antonio Reeves, Chris Livingston, Jacob Toppin and Oscar Tshiebwe for the sixth time. This lineup has a 4-2 record.
- CJ Fredrick was the first substitute at the 16:17 mark.
- Trailing 4-2, Kentucky went on a 12-0 run – finished with a pair of 3-pointers by Reeves – for a 14-4 lead and coax a Vanderbilt timeout at 13:42 on the clock.
- Trailing 34-27 with 3:00 to go, Vanderbilt ended the half on a 12-0 run to take a 39-34 lead into halftime.
- Reeves led UK in the first half with 11 points. Toppin had nine points and 10 rebounds.
- UK is now 3-11 this season when trailing at halftime.
In the Second Half
- Kentucky began the second half with the starting lineup.
- VU got the first basket of the half to complete the run at 14-0 and go ahead 41-34.
- VU eventually stretched the lead to 52-40.
- UK came back with a 6-0 run to cut the lead to 52-46.
- Trailing 63-52 with nine minutes left, an 8-0 run narrowed the gap to 63-60, but with 6:30 to go, VU hit a desperation 3-pointer at the expiration of the shot clock.
- UK got back within four points on four occasions but got no closer.