Men's Basketball

Riding Wave of Momentum, Cats Host Vandy on Wednesday

by Tim Letcher

Since winning big at Kansas on Saturday night, Kentucky has been the talk of the college basketball world. The Cats’ 18-point victory at Allen Fieldhouse sent a message to the rest of the nation that Kentucky is, indeed, a national championship contender.

The Cats were named National Team of the Week by multiple publications. Kentucky jumped from 12th to fifth in the latest Associated Press poll. Momentum is, without question, on UK’s side.

That momentum has taken some time to build but it could be taken away much more quickly. That’s something that the UK coaching staff has emphasized to its team this week.

In fact, Kentucky assistant coach Chin Coleman sent a text to the Cats early this week. Its message was simple.

“We didn’t come this far to only come this far,” Coleman’s text read. “We came this far to go farther.”
 

Kentucky
Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt

Wed., Feb. 2 – 7:00 p.m. ET
Rupp Arena
Lexington, Ky.
Game Notes: KU | VU
UK Athletics App

Coverage

TV: SEC Network
Radio: UK Sports Network
Watch
Listen
Live Stats

UK Stats VU
17-4 Record 11-9
82.1 PPG 68.6
64.1 Opp PPG 64.7
.497 FG% .412
.407 Opp FG% .418
41.6 RPG 34.3
.349 3PT FG% .319
.303 Opp 3PT FG% .298
17.0 APG 11.2
7.0 SPG 7.6
4.7 BPG 3.2


Indeed, that would be the plan for the Cats. To not only stay hot and continue to play well, but to position themselves for the postseason. But the bigger challenge for Kentucky right now is to not look too far ahead.

Coleman knows that the chemistry in the locker room is one of the strong points of this team.

“Our guys all like to each other,” Coleman said. “They like to be around each other. They like to compete with each other. When you got a locker room that’s bought in it’s fun to coach. That’s why our practices are really good.”

And that starts with Wednesday’s home game against Vanderbilt, a team that the Cats beat earlier this season. However, it was not a game that left a good taste in the mouth of UK head coach John Calipari.

The Cats built a double-digit lead in the first half and extended it in the second 20 minutes, eventually leading by as many as 28 points. However, the Cats did not score over the final 6:14 of the game, allowing Vandy to close the contest on a 16-0 run that made the final margin just 12 (78-66).

Kentucky got 30 points and 13 rebounds from Oscar Tshiebwe in the game, while freshman TyTy Washington Jr. had 15 points, four rebounds and four assists. The Cats played the game without starting point guard Sahvir Wheeler, who was injured a week earlier at LSU.

Stopping Vanderbilt starts with stopping Scotty Pippen Jr., something the Cats did not do in the first game. Pippen had a game-high 32 points when the teams met in Nashville last month. The Cats will look for better results on him this time around.

If Kentucky is to continue to build momentum toward the postseason, they must handle the business directly in front of them. And right now, that’s facing Vanderbilt on Wednesday night at Rupp Arena.

Kentucky Heading for Midpoint of Southeastern Conference Schedule

Coming off the final nonconference game of the regular season, Kentucky (17-4, 6-2 SEC) will reach the midpoint of the Southeastern Conference schedule by playing host to Vanderbilt on Wednesday. Game time is 7 p.m. and it will be telecast on the SEC Network.

It will be the second meeting this season between the Cats and the Commodores. On Jan. 11 in Nashville, Kentucky jumped out to a 13-point halftime lead and went on to a 78-66 win. Oscar Tshiebwe led the way with a career-high 30 points, along with 13 rebounds, and TyTy Washington added 15 points. Scotty Pippen Jr. took the game’s scoring honors with 32 points for the Commodores.

Kentucky leads the series, 152-47, and has won the last 11 meetings. UK leads 84-14 in games played in Lexington.

Vanderbilt is 11-9 overall, 3-5 in league play, and is coming off an 85-77 home win over Georgia on Saturday. The Commodores actually have a better record away home this season. VU is 5-3 away from Memorial Gymnasium, including 4-3 in true road games, with road victories at Pittsburgh, Hawaii, Arkansas and Georgia, plus a neutral-site win over Brigham Young.

Vanderbilt is led by Pippen, the SEC’s second-leading scorer at 18.6 points per game. In addition to his shooting prowess, Pippen does a great job drawing fouls and is third in the nation in free-throw attempts (142). Jordan Wright averages 12.3 points per game and is the team’s leading rebounder with a 5.8 average. Defensively, VU is limiting foes to just 64.7 points per game, including less than 30 percent on 3-point defense. 

Kentucky Wins 82-66 at Kansas, Largest Top-Five Road Win in School History

Keion Brooks Jr. scored 27 points and Oscar Tshiebwe had a double-double as No. 12 Kentucky defeated No. 5 Kansas 80-62 onSaturday night, with the final margin of 18 points marking Kentucky’s largest road win over a top-five opponent in school history.

The Wildcats grabbed a big halftime lead in Allen Fieldhouse and cruised to improve to 24-10 all-time in the series. Kansas had wonfour of the past five coming in. The last Kentucky win in Allen Fieldhouse was in 1983.

Kentucky coach John Calipari wasn’t interested in discussing history.

“I don’t even know who we played two weeks ago,” he said after the game. “We’ve won a lot of games against ranked teams, allkinds of different ways. I’ve done this a long time and I’ve been in many of these games on the road where it’s (ESPN College) GameDay.I told the team, `All the pressure is on the other team. If you play for 40 minutes, watch what happens.'”

Calipari said he’s seen this coming from Brooks.

“It’s how he’s been playing in his last couple of games and in practice,” Calipari said. “It wasn’t just making baskets. He rebounded. Hedefended. He came from the weak side and tipped the ball. He made great plays. He did all the other things, and then he made shots.”

Tshiebwe had 17 points and 14 rebounds for Kentucky (17-4), which also got 12 points from Kellan Grady and 11 from Jacob Toppin.

Kansas coach Bill Self was not surprised by Tshiebwe’s game.

“Oscar’s stats don’t show how good he is at rebounding, and his stats show that he’s the best rebounder in the country,” Self said.

But Tshiebwe was more interested in talking about Brooks.

“I’m so proud of him,” Tshiebwe said. “I want him to keep coming like that every night. We can be a top team if everyone steps uplike that. They pay attention too much to me. Now, they forget about him.”

Kansas (17-3) was led by Ochai Agbaji, who had 13 points, 10 in the second half. But the two-time reigning Big 12 Player of the Weekwas held well below his Big 12-leading 21.3 points per game. Christian Braun also had 13 points.

Kentucky dominated the boards, owning a 41-29 rebounding advantage, leading to a 17-6 edge in second-chance points.

“Their guys got to a level that we couldn’t get to,” Self said. “When you get into a jumping contest with those dudes, we couldn’tcompete.”

Self kept searching for combinations that would allow his team to get back in the game, but that search turned up empty. Kansasused a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to 62-48 early in the second half when Kentucky missed seven straight shots, but the Jayhawks nevergot any closer.

Kentucky used an 8-0 run early to grab the lead and then held Kansas at bay. Kentucky led by 12 at the 10:29 mark, with their pointsspread among seven different players. More telling, the Wildcats held a 13-4 advantage on the boards.

The Kentucky lead grew to as many as 20 when Grady hit a 3-pointer with 2:31 left in the half and the Wildcats led 51-31 at the break,Kansas’ largest halftime deficit of the season. They trailed Kansas State by 16 a week earlier but rallied for a 78-75 win.

Kentucky shot 61.8% (21 of 34) in the first half, while Kansas was just 13 of 33 (39.4%) and Agbaji was held to just three points.

MORE GAME NOTES

• Kentucky is now 5-3 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge and has won its last four in a row in the event. UK’s win helped the SEC claima 6-4 win in this year’s Challenge
• UK is 9-11 in games visited by the ESPN College GameDay show
• UK shot 50.8% from the field and is 16-0 this season when having a better field-goal percentage than the opponent
• With Brooks scoring 27, UK now has four players who have scored at least 25 points in a game this season, also Tshiebwe, TyTyWashington and Sahvir Wheeler
• Washington returned to action after a one-game absence because of an ankle injury

 

Related Stories

View all