Vandy carried the fight to the Kentucky Wildcats for the entire game.
Members of the “Blue Mist” who made the trip to Nashville are headed back to Lexington with higher blood-pressure and a higher respect for the Commodores’ basketball squad.
Vanderbilt didn’t beat sixth-ranked Kentucky Tuesday night, dropping 87-81. However, the Dores can walk away with confidence knowing they can play with anybody. They came up with big shots, big defensive stops and big plays throughout the second half to keep it tight with Kentucky, but it wasn’t enough.
Vandy missed 9 free throws tonight. Shot 71.9% from the line. It hurt them.
Played their guts out. Just couldn’t deny UK drives to hoop.
— Chris Harris (@ChrisHarrisWSMV) January 11, 2017
That was a valiant effort by Vanderbilt. Hung tough the entire game vs UK. Bryce Drew was a good hire for the Dores, no doubt in my mind.
— Zach Bingham (@Bada_Bingham) January 11, 2017
Vandy didn’t go away
In the last five minutes, Vandy cut the lead to within three points seven times. Every time UK scored, Vandy was there to answer. Jeff Roberson scored six of his 19 points in the last four minutes, including his second chance layup with 19-seconds left to make it a two point game. Luke Kornet drilled a three-pointers with 2:40 to go to get Memorial gym rocking.
Riley LaChance put together his guttiest performance he’s had to date as a Vandy player. We saw some of the aggressiveness and swagger that flashed his freshman year. His three-pointer, with 1:38 left, cut Kentucky’s lead to 79-78. LaChance finished tied for the team high in points (19) with Roberson and Matthew Fisher-Davis. But, the little-guard-that-could grabbed six defensive rebounds and had a team high four assists.
Unfortunately, LaChance also missed two key free throws during that stretch that hurt the ‘Dores. Vanderbilt missed nine free throws as a team. To beat top teams you have to shoot better than 71-percent from the free throw line. But, that doesn’t take away from the resiliency Vandy showed Tuesday night.
Kentucky attacked, attacked, attacked
Credit to John Calipari and his young squad. They had the resolve to answer any big blow the Commodores hit them with. Isaiah Briscoe and D’Aaron Fox slipped their way to the rim time and time again. The guard duo combined for 45 points, but twelve came off layups in the last six minutes.
Foul trouble on Kornet made it tough for the Commodores to keep Kentucky out of the paint. They used their quickness and length to get around Vandy defenders and Kornet was forced to be more passive at the rim.
Freshman sensation Malik Monk was quiet for most of the night, but showed the ice in his veins late. Monk scored Kentucky’s last six points in the final 34-seconds to close out Vandy. He finished with 18.
The Commodores host the Tennessee Vols Saturday night at 7:30 on the SEC Network.