That was a heartbreaking way to lose an ugly, physical game. Clearly Kentucky and Vanderbilt have separated themselves from the rest of the SEC. The SEC regular season title was on the line, and we had ourselves a good ol' fashioned heavyweight fight. The two teams were among the nations best offensively. Strangely enough, this game was all defense.
It stings. And certainly nobody likes to talk about finding silver linings in the wake of a gut-wrenching loss of the proportions Vandy fans are suffering through today. However, Vandy figured out something that had plagued them the entire season: how to play suffocating team defense.
If you had told me that Vandy would have shot 10% from 3 and 32% overall, scored only 0.77 points per possession, and had an assist to turnover ratio of 0.47 against a team of the caliber of Kentucky, I would have chiseled an "L" into stone. There aren't going to be many more nights this season where the team shoots so dreadfully. If they can build upon the defensive effort they showcased last night, they become an extremely dangerous team. Kentucky fans and Vanderbilt fans alike know that these teams are destined to meet again this season. The odds for Vandy to shoot poorly against Kentucky three times in a row? That's a bet nobody wants to take.
|Points Per Possession||0.77||0.81|
Plus/Minus Adjusted Per 40 Minutes
If you couldn't tell, Festus Ezeli and Steve Tchiengang were difference makers for Vanderbilt defensively. Might be the only player in the SEC who effectively matches up physically with DeMarcus Cousins. What he gives up in weight to DeMarcus, he takes back in sheer strength. As soon as he learns to control his fouls - most are the result of leaving his feet too early - he will be able to spend more time out on the court. Five more minutes out of Festus would have been a huge factor in Vanderbilt's ability to continue to apply tight defense on Cousins down the stretch.
"I probably should have released it a little sooner," Jenkins said. "But he made a good play on it. I hit the shot before and thought he'd do it again. That was going in, that shot was about to go in. It was going in for sure."