Despite the losing result, Vanderbilt played their best game of the season Wednesday night as they fell on the road to the No.13 Kentucky Wildcats by the score of 71-62.
Vanderbilt entered the contest having lost 24 straight regular season SEC games, a record that tied the Sewanee teams of 1938-1940.
Like it or not, this matchup was likely Vandy’s biggest game in two years. Not only was the most embarrassing losing streak in SEC history on the line, but they were playing in Rupp Arena against a blue-blood Kentucky team.
Rupp is not a place where this Vanderbilt program has thrived historically. In fact, with the loss, Vandy moves to 2-40 all time in one of the most famed buildings that hosts one of the most hostile fan bases in the country.
Vanderbilt had to grow up in light speed to have a chance in this one.
And grow up they did.
Due to inspired defense and fluid action on the offensive end, the Commodores were able to enter the locker rooms maintaining a 35-27 halftime advantage over the Wildcats sending Rupp Arena into a silent disbelief.
— Jack Gentry (@jackagentry) January 30, 2020
Vanderbilt entered the game as a 20.5-point underdog, considered by most college basketball insiders as a long shot at being able to compete, much less win, against this high octane Kentucky team.
It took up until the 9:31 mark in the second half for Kentucky to reclaim the lead. Vandy made a few runs to get within striking distance, but could never quite summit.
Vanderbilt’s potent offensive attack dried up over the last 5:40 as they were held without a made field goal during that span.
Saben Lee led all Commodores with 21 points on the night. Dylan Disu followed that up with 13 points of his own as Scottie Pippen Jr. (12) and Maxwell Evans (10) rounded out the “Dores in double figures.
Dylan Disu’s coming of age
Disu has proven he will be a cornerstone for the future success at Vanderbilt.
The 6-foot-9 freshman notched his third, and most impressive, double-double of the season versus Kentucky. Disu finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks.
Another Disu block – his fifth pic.twitter.com/EljuUR2TSI
— Chad Bishop (@MrChadBishop) January 30, 2020
Disu’s versatility is what is most impressive. He can fill it up from three, bang down low on the boards, and he defends with a sense of pride, which is hard to come by in college hoops these days.
The Pflugerville, Texas, native is definitely giving Vandy fans something to get excited about.
While it can be fun to mull over how the team may look in the future, it remains impossible to acknowledge the fact that the program currently resides in a basement filled with defeat and despair.
Fan attendance has plummeted alongside of any hopes that Vanderbilt can field a competitive team. The outlook is grim on West End and that likely won’t change this season.
The way that it is currently constructed, there isn’t a lot this roster can do. The ‘Dores have lost a first-round NBA talent due to injury for the second consecutive season and it may seem unfair. Sophomore forward Aaron Nesmith suffered a foot fracture January 10 after a promising start to the season.
The team could have easily called it a wrap after a 90-64 defeat to South Carolina in their last contest. They could have laid down and taken the drubbing that the entire college basketball world assumed they would receive.
But, if you tuned in Wednesday night, these players were not throwing a pity party.
Instead, Vandy stood tall and fought tooth and nail down to the wire with a Kentucky team the Vegas oddsmakers and others were certain they had no businesses sharing the floor with. And for that reason, this Vanderbilt hoops team and its resolute head coach, Jerry Stackhouse, can hold its collective head high.