In a game that kept Vanderbilt fans on their feet and in their seats for most of the contest, the Commodores eventually fell at the hands of John Calipari’s No. 12 Kentucky Wildcats on Tuesday night in Memorial Gymnasium. Although the final score was 78-64, the game was much closer than the score would indicate.

This marked the second meeting between the two teams this season, with Kentucky edging out Vanderbilt by the score of 71-62 in their first matchup in Lexington at the end of January.

The first 20 minutes

Similar to the first contest, Vanderbilt controlled the first half. After Scottie Pippen Jr. opened up the scoring at the 18:52 mark, Vandy spent the entire first half out in front. The ‘Dores would go on to take a 36-27 advantage into halftime after a first half that featured eight three-pointers from the black and gold. Five separate Commodores each had at least one triple by halftime.

Trailing by the score of 36-27 at the break, the Wildcats entered new territory, marking their biggest halftime deficit of the season. It was just under two weeks ago where another hot start from Vandy propelled them to the locker room holding a 35-28 lead over Kentucky.

And much like the first date between these two programs, Vanderbilt’s lead wouldn’t last.

Another lead evaporates

Vandy’s first-year head coach, Jerry Stackhouse, has spent a chunk of this season harping on the Commodores’ sluggish starts to the second half. This game was no different.

“We are not going to win many games if we’ve got ten assists in the first half and only three in the second half,” said Stackhouse, who was pleased with the effort of his team, but not thrilled with the lack of ball movement later in the game. “That’s not who we are. That’s not how we play.”

After a spirited spurt out of halftime, Kentucky whittled Vanderbilt’s lead down to 44-42. After a Pippen Jr. layup, the Wildcats countered with a 17-2 run to take their turn in the driver’s seat, commanding a 59-48 lead with under 10 minutes on the clock.

Vanderbilt trimmed the lead to five with four minutes to play, but Kentucky’s young stars were just too much.

The Wildcats’ point guard, and projected lottery pick, Tyrese Maxey finished with 26 points, most of which came from his ability to use his speed to beat the defense down the floor. Immanuel Quickley finished with 18 points while Ashton Hagans dropped 11 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists.

Four Commodores finished in double figures. Saben Lee had a team high 20 points. Pippen Jr. followed up with 13 on the night while Dylan Disu finished with his fourth double-double on the year and his second against Kentucky with 12 points and 10 boards. Evans rounded out the bunch with 10 points, all of which came in the first half.

“He’s teaching these kids how to play basketball,” said Coach Cal on the job Stackhouse has been doing in his first season as Vanderbilt’s head coach.

“I wouldn’t want to be playing Vandy anymore. It’s obvious he has a great connection with them because they are fighting for him.”

Next Up

Next up for Vanderbilt is a trip to Gainesville, Florida, where the Gators will be looking to break out of a four-way log jam at six wins in the SEC. Vandy was able to give Florida a scare in their first meeting although the Gators were able to outlast the ‘Dores 61-55.
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