Vanderbilt: 74 Kentucky: 62
In front of a sold out crowd at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, Tennessee, the Vanderbilt Commodores took down their second straight top-25 opponent (after losing 13 straight) in the 16th ranked Kentucky Wildcats. Vanderbilt came into this game in a must win situation as they had only one win prior over a top 25 team -defeated No. 8 Texas A&M on February 4. Matthew Fisher-Davis, Wade Baldwin IV, Damian Jones and Jeff Roberson were absolutely incredible tonight as they are finally reaching their peaks at the perfect time of the season. Damian and Wade each showed why they will each be future 1st round NBA picks showing an incredible amount of toughness and resiliency. Whether Damian was ripping the ball from a Kentucky player’s hands or Wade was driving the lane hitting a clutch shot they both largely contributed to this humongous win.
The Commodores were also motivated by the loudness of Memorial Gym as 14,326 fans packed in. The student section was great, the crowd was electrifying and the players fed off of it. They got excited and truly played as a team tonight. Selflessly sharing the ball to find the wide open man and putting their bodies on the line, Vandy looked like they had something they wanted to prove and they did just that.
The Commodores were able defeat the Wildcats of Kentucky because of the way they shut down Alex Poythress and because of their dominant paint presence. Alex Poythress is a great basketball player and has really helped the Kentucky Wildcats in several different ways this season. This was not the case tonight, however, as Poythress had 0 points and fouled out in the closing minutes of the game. Vandy was able to shut down a key player from UK which made all the difference.
Vanderbilt also had an incredibly strong paint presence tonight between Damian Jones and Luke Kornet. Damian Jones only had 15 points, but he fought all game for loose balls and rebounds. He was constantly ripping rebounds from the Kentucky defenders’ hands and earning second chance points. Jones also helped get a couple of wildcat players into foul trouble, including Poythress.
Matthew Fisher-Davis was at his absolute best all game. He had 20 points while adding 4 rebounds and a block in 37 minutes. Not only was he great on the stat sheet, but he was also a game-changer defensively. He helped guard the hot Jamal Murray and did a decent job with it; at least as good as anyone else who guarded him from the Commodore team. He also was able to hit several clutch threes that were almost always a great answer to a Kentucky bucket.
Tyler Ulis struggled a bit tonight shooting 5-20 from the field and having only 12 points in 39 minutes. He has averaged 16.7 points per game on the year but he could not get it going at all tonight. He had several open looks and opportunities but did not cash in. Jamal Murray, however, was outstanding as he kept Kentucky in the game by adding 33 points.
One crazy stat of the game was the bench points from Vanderbilt. They had one bench point the entire game which came from a Riley LaChance free throw. I understand that only two players came off the bench for the Commodores for significant playing time, but bench depth is usually what wins games like this. This attests to how spectacular the starters truly were and how much this game meant to this team.
Vanderbilt is not a team that people would want to face in March. They have an incredible amount of talent and we have just been waiting for them to come together, play as a team and show they care by hustling after loose balls, getting energized with the crowd, etc. The last couple of contests the Commodores have played together and have been very hard to beat. They are winners of three straight games which includes a road win vs Florida and this win. The ‘Dores absolutely must win on Tuesday March 1 as they host Tennessee at 7:00 P.M. Eastern in Nashville on senior night. With a win against the Vols, I believe Vanderbilt will be playing in the NCAA Tournament.
Go ‘Dores and Anchor Down!
University of Dayton ’18