Kentucky Avoids Major Upset; Beats Vandy 71-62

I can’t say I’m surprised by how that game went. Classic trap game. Kentucky plays No. 17 Auburn on the road Saturday, but they had 8-11, haven’t won an SEC game since I was four, Vanderbilt tonight. I was worried for awhile, but Nick Richards Abdul-Jabbar and Tyrese Maxey saved the day for Kentucky.

The Cats started out slow, as you could expect. They never really got any offense going and looked very sluggish. Nick Richards going out with two fouls early didn’t help at all, either. Kentucky had one of their worst halves of basketball of the year and found themselves down 35-28 at halftime.

Second half was a different story. Nick Richards and Tyrese Maxey balled. Vanderbilt got nervous, tired, dare I say the Rupp crowd kicked in? Kentucky played alert and had the “oh crap, we could lose” mentality in the second half. They avoided an Evansville and won 71-62.

Let’s talk a little about the game.

Nick Richards and Tyrese Maxey

Both of these guys played well tonight. But, Nick Richards was a big reason Kentucky won this game. The Jamaican stud had 15 points (all in the second half) and grabbed 11 boards. That’s like his ninth double-double this season, right?

But we can’t forget about Tyrese Maxey now. He had 17 points, four rebounds, two assists, and two three’s.

If Kentucky wants to make a deep tournament run, these two will be a huge key.

Cal played a zone

Something happened tonight we very, very rarely see. John Calipari played a zone. Mostly because the Cats couldn’t guard Saban Lee. A Vandy player hit a three and I’m pretty sure he got them out of it immediately after.

But, did Coach Cal learn something from the Arkansas game? We didn’t quite get the same result since Kentucky didn’t shut Vandy down like they did Arkansas, but we’re definitely making progress.

Jerry Stackhouse doesn’t un-cross his arms. Ever.

John Calipari and Jerry Stackhouse are polar opposites when it comes to coaching. Cal runs up and down the sideline, screaming at his players and the officials, while Stackhouse barely moves, never says a word, and doesn’t ever uno-cross his arms. Scratch that, he did un-cross his arms to raise his hands on a no-call, then crossed them again.

His coaching antics are about as boring as Vanderbilt athletics is.

Scottie Pippen’s son, Scottie Pippen Jr., plays for Vandy

I found this really cool and kind of sad at the same time.

But, I guess Scottie went to Arkansas State, so his son is already ahead of him.

Kentucky faced their largest halftime-deficit tonight

Kentucky was down seven at the half tonight, which is their largest halftime deficit of the season. This stat really surprised me.

Kentucky was down by as much as ten in the second half and found a way to comeback and win. I don’t care who you’re playing, coming back from a ten point deficit, especially with how good Vandy played, is really impressive.

The difference between tonight and Evansville

I couldn’t help but think of the Evansville nightmare while watching tonight. For most of the game, Kentucky played a lot like they did that night.

Here is why Kentucky avoided the upset:

  • Nick Richards is a stud
  • Tyrese Maxey is now the player we thought he would be
  • Kentucky’s defense was a lot better tonight
  • Kentucky won the rebounding contest

What’s next?

Other than a banked in three at the buzzer loss to South Carolina, Kentucky is unbeaten in SEC play. That and a huge win on the road against Texas Tech. Kentucky is one of the hottest teams in the country.

The Cats have a showdown Saturday against No. 17 Auburn, which is set to tip-off at 6 p.m. EST on ESPN. Kentucky is everyone’s Super Bowl and that will be truer than ever Saturday. Win it and you’re likely a top ten team again and are looking at maybe a 2-3 seed in the tournament.

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