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10 Leftovers from Kentucky’s stunning beatdown of Vanderbilt

© Jim Brown | USATSI

© Jim Brown | USATSI

In what is becoming a pattern I can get used to, it’s the morning after a big win and I can’t stop smiling. Kentucky’s 87-52 beatdown of Vanderbilt in Memorial Gym last night was a beautiful sight to behold, so allow me to give my spin on it to start the morning.

Best defensive half since UCLA in 2014

If you had 2014-15 feels at times last night, you are not alone. Kentucky’s 30-point lead at halftime was the Cats’ largest at intermission since leading UCLA by 34 in December 2014. I’m not sure anything will ever top the shock of leading UCLA 41-7, but Kentucky’s 33-5 run in the final 13:51 of the first half was pretty amazing, especially when you consider how far this team has come. The 2014-15 team was great defensively from the start (like Jay Bilas said, trying to score on them was like throwing a frisbee in a forest), but this team has matured into menaces, thanks in large part to Ashton Hagans, whom Bryce Drew called the best perimeter defender in the country.

“Hagans does a great job speeding you up. He speeds up possessions. He can cover two guys, basically and not get burned. He’s probably the best perimeter defender in the country. I can’t think of a better perimeter defender in the country than him.”

What a difference 17 days makes

Let me remind you that less than three weeks ago, this same Vanderbilt team held Kentucky to 56 points, its lowest scoring output of the year, in Rupp. Last night, the Dores are lucky fouls got in the way of the Cats topping the century mark. Obviously, Vanderbilt’s had a bad run of it since the game at Rupp, but Kentucky’s done some work since then too, controlling the tempo from the start and making the ‘Dores run. Shooting helped, too, with the Cats knocking down 55.6 percent from the floor and a season-high 58.8 percent from three. Bryce Drew said that when that’s happening, Kentucky is pretty much unbeatable.

“If they shoot this way, good luck to the guys guarding them because I don’t see anyone beating them.”

PJ Washington is doing it, guys

The biggest knock on PJ Washington has always been consistency, but last night was his third straight 20-point game; in fact, he’s the first player with back-to-back 20-point, 10-rebound games since Julius Randle in 2013. PJ had 18 points and 10 rebounds BY HALFTIME. As John Calipari said last night, it looks like the sophomore has turned the corner.

“You don’t know why the light goes on,” Calipari said. “But you see it and you know the light just went on.”

Cal said PJ’s even ditched his cool-guy routine when something goes wrong. Instead of laughing it off and acting like it doesn’t matter, he bows his head and takes it personally. You can tell.

Keldon Johnson and Reid Travis had zero points at halftime

The most promising thing about this this team right now? They’re capable of winning big even when one or two guys are off. Kentucky had a 30-point lead on the road at halftime with zero points from Keldon Johnson and Reid Travis, first and third on the team in scoring this season. That’s incredible and bodes very well for March.

Calipari wants more

What do you tell your team when you’re up 30 at half? If you’re John Calipari, that you want them to be up by 60.

“He didn’t want us to let up,” Nick Richards said of Calipari’s halftime message. “We were up by 30 but we should probably be able to score about 60 in the second half.”

“I teased them at halftime and told them I was really mad at them because I don’t want any of my teams playing this well in January,” Cal quipped. “Being up 30 is hard to play. My team is just halfway up the mountain. We can’t afford to revert back to what we’ve been playing. So if you wonder why I was coaching the way I was coaching, that’s why.”

How great was it to see Nick Richards play well?

One of my favorite things about this team right now is how happy they are when their teammates play well. Nick Richards had a season-high 14 points and four blocks last night, and his teammates’ joy after his big dunks at the end was contagious.

“He put it on his head,” PJ Washington said afterwards, explaining the head-tapping dance the bench was doing. “I mean he did it two times in a row and we’re just happy for him. He works so hard in practice everyday to see him do something like that was really special.”

I almost felt bad for Vandy

Trust me, I have no love in my heart for Vanderbilt, but it was hard not to feel bad for them at times last night. Last week’s overtime loss to No. 1 Tennessee broke their spirit, and not only did Kentucky wipe the floor with them last night, Kentucky fans turned their gym blue, which must have been icing on a particularly horrible cake. I’ll have more on #BBNashville in just a bit, but hearing the “Go Big Blue” and “CATS” chants fill Memorial Gym is a memory I’ll cherish for years.

This girl had an amazing time

This girl read her book

To be fair, that could be a really good book, but still, it’s clear who was having the most fun in Nashville last night.

Kentucky Basketball is fun again

It’s been a weird few years to be a Kentucky fan. The highest of highs became the lowest of lows after the Wisconsin loss in 2015,  which I believe broke most of the fanbase, myself included. Just as De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, and Bam Adebayo brought us back to life, Luke Maye had to go and rip the scab off the wound. The Bahamas trip last summer was the first time I let myself get really excited about basketball since then, only for it all to come crashing to the ground vs. Duke. Now that the Cats have won nine of the last ten, a run that’s included wins over rivals, wins on the road, wins over ranked opponents, and now, a true thumpin’, it feels like Kentucky Basketball is really back. Tough games lie ahead, but I can’t wait for the ride.


Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

25 Comments for 10 Leftovers from Kentucky’s stunning beatdown of Vanderbilt

  1. Kat4Life
    9:19 am January 30, 2019 Permalink

    The kids are having a ball…..they are playing at an entirely different level. Final Four chat is back.

  2. BluemanGreen
    9:23 am January 30, 2019 Permalink

    All the people that gave up on this team and were saying they wouldnt even make the NCAA tournament…how bout yall stay away and dont come back!

    • RealCatsFan
      9:29 am January 30, 2019 Permalink

      Absolutely! Although a few of them were noted trolls and fans of other teams. (looking at you, BoB)

    • StillBP
      9:50 am January 30, 2019 Permalink

      “another 10 loss team” they kept saying. I argued, they laughed. I hope they’re choking on their crow.

    • StillBP
      9:51 am January 30, 2019 Permalink

      of course they’ll be sitting around hoping we lose 7 of our next 11 lol

    • BigolBlue
      1:56 pm January 30, 2019 Permalink

      Still bp, will they win title? Oh yeah the tournament is so random. Or will cal win another at UK? Likely not

    • bigbluebanana
      3:13 pm January 30, 2019 Permalink

      If/when we win another title bob, you need to go away forever. And you certainly better not be on here talking about how awesome it is if we do. And way to take the hard line, betting on the field forever. If I say right now Alabama never wins another football title, the odds still favor me even though it’s freaking Alabama football! You saying cal and U.K. won’t get another title is about the same as me betting I’ll never break my arm again even though I did when I was 12. You need a better grasp of how odds work (and reality too).

    • StillBP
      8:48 pm January 30, 2019 Permalink

      Bbb nailed it, as usual. I’m going to start repeatedly telling BoB that he’ll never win the lottery and then bragging every day that I’m right when he doesn’t win.

  3. RealCatsFan
    9:32 am January 30, 2019 Permalink

    The way we took over Vandy’s arena and started up the GBB chants is exactly why the rest of the SEC hates us and always packs their arenas when we play on the road. Their hate is burning, and I love to feast on it! 🙂

  4. ky yaya
    9:44 am January 30, 2019 Permalink

    It is true. Wisconsin broke me. Wasn’t sure if I could ever really be excited about BB again. But I think I am getting there. GO BIG BLUE!

  5. ClutchCargo
    9:46 am January 30, 2019 Permalink

    There was really nothing not to love about this game, but seeing PJ transforming into a bulldog is what has me really excited about this team. With him and Reid doing their thing, that’s just too much for most teams to overcome.

    • henderblue
      12:12 pm January 30, 2019 Permalink

      That’s right Clutch. He looked focused and engaged the whole game. I don’t remember him flexing one time. Not saying he didn’t, but I can’t recall it

  6. Wildcat Sheli
    9:49 am January 30, 2019 Permalink

    It still grieves me that those “lows” mentioned above (plus the lows of our final games in 2008 and 2011) were officiated by a common ref. And the lows of 2010 and 2018 by another. Here’s to fair games in the future! Go ‘Cats!

    • Wildcat Sheli
      9:53 am January 30, 2019 Permalink


    • LexJim
      8:56 pm January 30, 2019 Permalink

      I don’t remember officiating being of that much Import in the 2010 loss to WVU but the 2017 (I presume you didn’t mean 2018) loss to UNC was a cruel joke, and not by our players or UNC’s. But the behavior of a third of the remaining third was a disgrace to college basketball.

  7. Wildcat Sheli
    9:50 am January 30, 2019 Permalink

    I had to do a double check a few times during the game when I’d hear boos or cheers. I’d think, “Wait a minute, that went our way!” And then I’d realize it was UK fans making the noise. Way to go BBN! You turned one of the most difficult gyms into a home game atmosphere!

  8. Wildcat_blues1029
    9:54 am January 30, 2019 Permalink

    Biggest take away from this game has to be the team chemistry to me. Never once saw guys head down after missing shots, bad passes or missed defense assignments. Made a mistake guys played hard throug it. If we continue to keep this mentality how great can we be come SEC tourney!!!! Here soon we could have another 3 games in a row of ranked teams with a road matchup against Mississippi St, and home games against LSU and Tennessee. Can see us dominating all three honestly

    • trumpetguy
      5:25 pm January 30, 2019 Permalink

      blues1029…..B A L A N C E my friend is what we have going on right before our eyes. If one or two guys are struggling, for whatever reason, UK still has about 5-6 other options who can play winning basketball and contribute. As Hagan’s dad said at the Ga. game, “keep the pedal down”. LONG lob pass from EJ to Nick late in the game was very sweet look!

  9. KYJelly
    11:37 am January 30, 2019 Permalink

    The team is having fun as a whole and it shows, that’s great to see. GO CATS

    • LexJim
      9:05 pm January 30, 2019 Permalink

      You think the dude game was deflating? Hell, you should have been there. The only positive to come out of it as far as I was concerned was that we weren’t able to get lower level seats and waste $200 to $400 a ticket. ??????

  10. bigblue2284
    12:16 pm January 30, 2019 Permalink

    The team is playing great right now. The change has been the leadership and play of Ashton who dissected the zone time and time again last night. I’m not counting on Washington being consistent until he does it for a longer period of time. It saddens me that this year has been overshadowed and less exciting because of the Duke beat down and poor play early. That Duke loss completely deflated my expectations.

    • LexJim
      9:14 pm January 30, 2019 Permalink

      You think the Duke game was deflating? Hell, you should have been there. The only positive about it was we weren’t able to get lower level seats and waste $200 to $400. But it hindsight it may have been a good thing. Our players have learned that you have to work hard to get where they are at and there is no way to ever play like that again. It was a perfect storm.

  11. StuckinLville
    2:25 pm January 30, 2019 Permalink

    We are playing great, but I’m not going to think final four until we play Tennessee. For me, that will determine our ceiling.

    • Aar
      12:29 am January 31, 2019 Permalink

      So, does one loss out of two (or two out of three) to Tennessee this season lower this team’s ceiling or does it serve as greater motivation in the tournament that matters?

      I said before the season that I’d gladly lost the first one for winning the last one. Likewise, I’ll gladly lose 1-3 games to the #1 team in the country in order to have a six game winning streak that starts after the SEC tournament. Losses light fires in well coached and highly motivated teams. Nonetheless, I want the Cats to win them all. You gotta win ‘em one at a time. Go Cats, beat Gators!

  12. Aar
    12:07 am January 31, 2019 Permalink

    The Wisconsin thing was just one loss. The other losses are the same. Just one loss. I still bleed as blue today as I did when I was in Memorial’s rafters for Issel’s Senior Blue-White. Being part of BBN is a wonderful ride every season. This season’s Cats are on a better trajectory than we’ve seen in about five years and I’m enjoying the ride. Then again, I enjoy it every season. I think these Cats have a better shot at number nine than they had since they were two games from 40-0. We’ll learn more about them in the Swamp on Saturday! Go Cats, fry up some Gator!