In 13 years as Vanderbilt's head coach, Kevin Stallings had never taken his team to a SEC Tournament title game. Now, he can cross that accomplishment off his bucket list.
Vandy advanced to the SEC title game against Kentucky by virtue of a 65-53 win over Ole Miss Saturday afternoon. The win gave the Commodores another win over a top 100 opponent and solidified their standing heading in to Selection Sunday.
Vanderbilt overcame an Ole Miss squad that was determined to turn this game into a dogfight from the start. The Rebels held Vandy to just 25 points in the first half and limited the Commodores to another lackluster first half for the third time in their past three games.
The 'Dores overcame their slow start behind the shooting of John Jenkins and some solid bench play. Jenkins found his stroke after a tough first half to out-shoot the Ole Miss zone and put the Commodores ahead in a contentious game. He finished with 23 points. However, his contributions weren't the only thing that drove this team to victory.
Dai-Jon Parker and Kedren Johnson put together some solid minutes in the second half, out-shooting Ole Miss's tough zone defense and providing some much-needed support for this team's starting five. The 'Dores needed it - Festus Ezeli and Jeffery Taylor combined for just two points on the night. The freshman duo added 12 points in key minutes in Saturday's win.
Vanderbilt improved to 23-10 with the win and likely locked up a top six seed in the NCAA Tournament next week. They'll move on to face #1 Kentucky in the SEC Tournament finals tomorrow at noon central time. Vandy has lost twice to UK already this season, but had played the Wildcats close in both losses. They'll have one last chance to topple Kentucky in their first SEC title game since 1951 on Sunday.