Skip to content

Kentucky Sports Radio

University of Kentucky Basketball, Football, and Recruiting news brought to you in the most ridiculous manner possible.

Lessons Learned from Kentucky’s 71-62 Win over Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt entered Rupp Arena Wednesday night searching for their first SEC win in 697 days. After more than 20 minutes of basketball, it looked like they were well on their way to finding it.

Kentucky slept-walk through the first half of the 6:30 p.m. ET start before ultimately powering through to a 71-62 victory. The Wildcats improve to 16-4 overall, 6-1 in SEC play.

For most of the game many feared it was deja vu all over again. The script had been written before against Evansville, Utah and South Carolina. The Evansville loss is the only Quadrant IV loss by a team in the top 40 of the NET rankings. A loss to Vanderbilt would have been the second of the season, potentially knocking the Cats down two seed lines on Selection Sunday. Here’s how the Wildcats avoided a disaster at Rupp Arena.

This is Nick Richards’ Team

Kentucky’s double-double machine made an almost fatal early mistake. Three minutes into the game Richards picked up two fouls in 12 seconds. Was the first one on the baseline a good call? That’s debatable. What you can’t argue is that he should have been smarter when he tried to block a shot seconds later.

Cast off to the bench, Kentucky looked lost up a creek without a paddle. Vanderbilt outscored UK in the paint 16-10 to take a 35-28 halftime lead.

When Richards returned to action in the second half, the Wildcats were a completely different team. What was exactly different? To start, he scored all 15 of his points and grabbed 10 of his 11 rebounds in the second half.  Kentucky completely transformed inside, winning the battle in the paint 20-6 in the second half.

Throw the stats to the side, tonight’s second half proves that Richards is even more valuable than what you see in the box score. The offense was entirely out of sync in the first half. Upon Richards’ return, they found a flow by using him in high ball screens. When Vanderbilt took away the roll, he gave shooters on the perimeter enough space to operate. When they forced him to pop, he buried buckets from the midrange. As the wheels came off, he piled up dunks.

There’s no burying the lede. This team goes as Nick Richards goes.

Maxey is Big in Big Moments

We were beginning to realize Richards was the key to Kentucky’s success, a sentiment that was confirmed vs. Vandy. Tonight we also received confirmation that Tyrese Maxey is typically at his best when Kentucky needs it the most.

Vanderbilt deserves credit. They hit frustrating shots all night long, seemingly finding a response to every big UK shot that appeared to spark a run. They ran out of responses when Tyrese Maxey flipped the switch.

Leading by just two points with six minutes to play, Maxey drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key, beginning a 10-point scoring outburst over the next 3:30 minutes to put the game out of reach for the Commodores. Tonight’s game-closing run won’t be remembered as well as the big shot he buried to beat Michigan State, but it confirmed that John Calipari can trust the ball in his hands late in important postseason games.

Disappearing Double-Digit Deficits

The ultimate enigma facing this team all season was their inability to put teams away after building up a double-digit lead. The shoe was on a different foot tonight.

After taking an early lead, Vanderbilt took control with 7:31 remaining in the first half. The Commodore lead grew to 10 points early in the second half. Richards’ return helped UK return to form, along with the help from an unlikely source — E.J. Montgomery.

The sophomore forward turned two offensive rebounds into five points. The initial ‘and one’ was followed a few possessions later with a hard-fought finish that gave Kentucky its first lead in over 18 minutes. Saben Lee had one more response on the next trip down the court, but Vandy never retook the lead after that.  Montgomery finished with nine points, four rebounds and a blocked shot in 21 minutes.

UK Must Eliminate Elementary Mistakes

There have been a few times this season where it looked like Kentucky got over the hump. Don’t be fooled. In every game there will be a head-scratching moment or two. Tonight featured a few more than two.

Of course, Ashton Hagans did the thing where he leaps into the air and doesn’t know what he’s going to do with the ball. Once Maxey threw it to nobody in transition as he attempted a no-look pass. The worst gaffes were the defensive brain farts.

UK has guarded staggered ball screens all season long, yet to start the second half the defender went under each screen and nobody showed, leaving Saben Lee wide open for an easy three from the top of the key. That wasn’t as frustrating as the final possession of the half. Jerry Stackhouse called a timeout to draw up the oldest play in the book. Keion Brooks and Johnny Juzang never realized the double screen was coming, even though Brooks was staring right at the passer. Instead of showing to help on the three-point shooter, he let one man screen two, extending Vanderbilt’s lead to seven before halftime.

Excuse my commentary. My television was the victim of many loud, verbal insults in the first half.  

Visitors Love Rupp’s Rims

The BBN may have let that 0-for-25 Vanderbilt performance from behind the three-point line vs. Tennessee get to our head. At halftime the Commodores had knocked down five threes and were shooting over 40 percent behind the line.

There’s always one unexpected guy that transforms into a superstar. Tonight that was Dylan Disu. The 6’9″ freshman scored a career-high 21 points last week against Alabama. He was well on his way to setting a new high until he picked a fourth foul with 11:55 left in the second half. That ‘and one’ he surrendered to E.J. Montgomery was a backbreaker for Vandy. By the time he returned five minutes later, the game was all but lost. He still finished with 13 points (3-8 3FG), 11 rebounds and 5 blocked shots.

Vanderbilt was on the verge of capitalizing on the perfect “trap game” opportunity. Sandwiched in-between an emotional overtime win at Texas Tech and a College GameDay matchup against Auburn — the same team that ended UK’s 2019 season — Kentucky had every excuse in the world to lay an egg. To see them once again play to a lower level of competition should not have been surprising.

When this team got punched the mouth, they picked themselves back up and found a way to win. That was not always the case earlier in the season. If we learned nothing else from the Wildcats Wednesday night, it’s that no matter what hand they are dealt, there’s no panic until the battle is won.

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

34 Comments for Lessons Learned from Kentucky’s 71-62 Win over Vanderbilt

  1. JT55
    10:09 pm January 29, 2020 Permalink

    This team is definitely flawed. Thankfully, the SEC is down and almost every other team is flawed also.

  2. Lip Man 1
    10:18 pm January 29, 2020 Permalink

    These guys love playing on the edge. We’ve seen it a lot over the years from Cal’s teams.

    You are now halfway through the season, no excuse, ABSOLUTELY no excuse for some of the dumb plays, fouls etc tonight against a bad, really bad club.

    They got the win and that’s good but they simply have got to start playing smarter, you’re not in high school anymore guys where you can just flip a switch whenever you like.

    You’d think after Evansville, Utah and So. Carolina they’d have learned that lesson.

    Guess not, at least not yet.

  3. catfan312
    10:22 pm January 29, 2020 Permalink

    This team is still so manic and the Big Dance should be interesting. They’ll either make it to the Final 4 or get beat by a 13 or 14 seed in the first round. Can’t get any consistency from EJ, Keion or Nate among others doesn’t help

  4. magimae
    10:27 pm January 29, 2020 Permalink

    It’s mind blowing, the 4 losses should have been W’s

  5. Aar
    10:51 pm January 29, 2020 Permalink

    BBN, ever since the schedule was released and based upon the season to date, I think this weekend’s game at Auburn is THE pivotal game of the season. It’s likely the toughest opponent and environment combination of the season. Being on February first, it kicks off the final stretch of the regular season. If the Cats win this one, I don’t think there’s an upcoming game that they will not win. Yes, at LSU will be very tough, at UT and in the swamp are always crap shoots. Regardless of the outcome of those three games, if the Cats win at Auburn, I will still feel very confident about the post-season as long as they win out in Rupp. On the other hand, if they lose this weekend, I will be on pins and needles starting with the Sweet 16 regardless of whether they completely win out after Saturday. Go Cats, beat the Tigers!

  6. zoupman
    11:07 pm January 29, 2020 Permalink

    I disagree the team slept walked thru first half. I think credit should be given to Vandy for playing well. Glad team gutted it out. Nice win.

  7. CrystalBall
    11:08 pm January 29, 2020 Permalink

    Only shot 10 threes, making 3. No way Cats win against Auburn with those numbers.
    Or several other teams. Need to start making about 7 per game. They usually shoot 3’s better
    away from Rupp.

    • michaelb
      11:20 pm January 29, 2020 Permalink

      See but we can , you’re not accounting for our defense that allows us to miss and turn the ball over but still come out on top !

  8. MrFlip41129
    11:20 pm January 29, 2020 Permalink

    JT55 you’re 1/8 right. But don’t be negative. These are KIDS. I’m sure you play better than they do.. In Cal I trust! LET’S GO CATS!!!!!!!! STRIVE FOR 9!

  9. BigTimeOwen
    1:30 am January 30, 2020 Permalink

    Vandy played as good as they have all season and without their best player. They’ll be quite a force to be reckoned with even next year. Props to them. If Disu hadn’t gotten into foul trouble that game would have been a lot closer and way too close for comfort. That said, the fact we were able to come out in the second half with focus and some extra grit after being down makes me feel a lot better about our chances in March.

    Agreed on the 3-pointer assessment, too, though. We have guys that can shoot and when Nick and EJ are in the game we should be able to space well enough to get good enough looks out there to take more than 10. When the NBA game is going the way it is, it is weird our guys aren’t getting those looks as consistently – and, whether we like it or not, we’re trying to get guys to the league to shoot those shots.

  10. Righteous1
    2:23 am January 30, 2020 Permalink

    Billy Clyde Calipari almost pulled another one off tonight. The Sporting News Coach of the Decade feels good about his team that struggled at home against a team that is missing their leading scorer and have not won an SEC conference game since 2018. I can hardly wait until Saturday. The teams are equal, but Bruce Pearl is a far better coach at strategy and adjustments during the game than Billy Clyde Calipari. It is about time for a “tweak” from the 10 million dollar man with the lifetime contract.

    This is still a double digit loss team and by the end of the year, no Final Four appearance in 5 years which is a justification for termination at schools like:
    Ohio State
    But not at UK. But that decision was made by the UK Administration. The same body that has a history that would not embrace either Bear Bryant or pay the moving expenses for Pat Head Summit after hiring her. Also allowed Joker Phillips to destroy UK Football after Coach Brooks had it going in the right direction. Thankfully, Coach Stoops is here.

    Also, look at these facts:
    Rupp won 1 title in his last 20 yrs. Hall won 1 title
    Pitino 1 title
    Smith 1 title
    Billy Clyde Calipari 1 title
    The historical data shows that the odds on the 10 million dollar man winning another title are not good. He should have been pushed out to UCLA, but history shows that the UK powers to be do not have a very good track record.

    • StillBP
      6:59 am January 30, 2020 Permalink

      I should have sent out some thoughts and prayers for Righteous1 too, he is so mad that we won. If we had lost, he had his rant ready about how Cal can’t coach. But yet, he had to edit it to try and find a negative, but he failed to do so. You know who didn’t fire their coach after more than 5 straight years of no Final Four? Villanova. How’d that work out for them? I hope you can muster up some happiness today despite your night being ruined by our WIN!

    • 4everUKBlue
      8:33 am January 30, 2020 Permalink

      Ah Righteous1 or is it Slater? Your rants are about as funny as mashbum’s so I don’t even bother to read them anymore. Cal hater’s are gonna hate Cal regardless of what he does, there is nothing new under the sun.

    • 4everUKBlue
      8:44 am January 30, 2020 Permalink

      But you sure are one of if not the funniest of the Cal haters on this site Righteous1. I needed a good chuckle to start the day after a win.

    • CrystalBall
      10:56 am January 30, 2020 Permalink

      Disagree, Righteous1, that Bruce Pearl is a better coach. He puts on a show like a carnival barker. and is a shady character.
      But he is not a better coach. BTW. He has wanted the Ky coaching job for a long time.

  11. Righteous1
    2:46 am January 30, 2020 Permalink

    I almost forgot, this same administration hired Billy Clyde Gillespie.

    • Bluehender
      5:58 am January 30, 2020 Permalink

      They hired Stoops too, idiot..

    • 4everUKBlue
      8:34 am January 30, 2020 Permalink

      Bluehender, to call Righteous1 an idiot is to insult the idiots of the world, he’s way below idiot status.

    • Bluehender
      9:36 am January 30, 2020 Permalink

      Lol got me there..

  12. Bluehender
    5:22 am January 30, 2020 Permalink

    Winner!!! For the dumb ass post of the day. Probably the week too….

    • Bluehender
      5:25 am January 30, 2020 Permalink

      ^^^^Comment meant for the knucklehead above..

  13. Righteous1
    7:02 am January 30, 2020 Permalink

    Well Bluehender you must be referring to yourself because you are pointing at yourself The only disputable fact is the results of this season in basketball. Everything else is factual. I deal with facts and without blinders, unlike the Loyal Cal Bitches Club.

    • StillBP
      7:08 am January 30, 2020 Permalink

      hahaha mashburnfan1 must have an alter account, he gives the same “facts” line all the time! I see you’re still mad today about us winning. I’ll send out some thoughts and prayers for you, man.

    • StillBP
      7:10 am January 30, 2020 Permalink

      you might want to Google “facts” so that you know what it truly means. 90% of your rant is your opinion, not facts. Bless you’re heart, you’re so mad!

    • Bluehender
      7:42 am January 30, 2020 Permalink

      No. It was meant for you…You’re the only one I’d have to explain that to. BP got you figured out too..

    • StillBP
      8:03 am January 30, 2020 Permalink

      hender, everyone in here knew who your comment was directed to, he’s just trying to find a victory somewhere, no matter how small, since the Cats won and he hates that.

    • Bluehender
      8:16 am January 30, 2020 Permalink

      Lol…no doubt BP

    • 4everUKBlue
      8:37 am January 30, 2020 Permalink

      Righteous1 is alway miserable just like mashbum but he’ll be even more miserable until the Cats lose again, then the sun will come out for him and all his Cal hater buddies then they will be just a tad bit less miserable…but still miserable. LMAO!

  14. Righteous1
    11:13 am January 30, 2020 Permalink

    I love it when the Loyal Cal Bitches Club likes to express their displeasure when I present the facts. Which one of you fine fans can dispute any of my previously stated facts. I did not state Villanova for 2 reasons: 1. Their coach has won 2 titles. 2. Villanova is not a top 10 program all-time in college basketball per the Bleacher Report.

    • StillBP
      1:29 pm January 30, 2020 Permalink

      please tell me what facts you listed besides:
      Vandy hasn’t won a SEC game in 2 years
      Rupp won 1 title in his last 20 yrs. Hall won 1 title
      Pitino 1 title
      Smith 1 title

      Yes, those are facts. I left out the Cal line because that’s not his name so that isn’t a fact.

      Other than that, there are no facts in your comments. Also, you said Cal hasn’t been to a FF in 5 years. We were there in 2015. let’s try counting…2016 + 2017 + 2018 + 2019 = 4. 2020 hasn’t happened yet, dip$hit! You don’t know if we will make it, you only have the OPINION that we won’t.

      And the only reason you left Vilanova out is bc it doesn’t fit your agenda. How many championships has OH St won in basketball? One wayyyy back in 1960 but you consider them worthy of a mention and not Villanova? You are so ignorant.

    • StillBP
      1:33 pm January 30, 2020 Permalink

      Loyal Cal Bitches Club > Ignorant Irrational Cal Hating Club

    • 4everUKBlue
      6:09 pm January 30, 2020 Permalink

      BP just owned your @ss dude!