Another game, another wasted opportunity to lock down a quality win for Vanderbilt basketball. The Commodores' inability to finish at the rim and struggles in the backcourt allowed No. 23 Kentucky to roll to a 76-57 win in Lexington on Saturday afternoon.
The defeat dropped the 'Dores to 11-8 on the season and 0-6 against RPI Top 50 teams. It also snapped a three-game winning streak and pushed Vanderbilt back under .500 in SEC play. Damian Jones had one of his best performances under the national spotlight of an ESPN broadcast, but his efforts weren't enough to avoid disappointment at Rupp Arena. The Commodores needed an eight-man effort to topple Kentucky on the road, but the team's starting guards combined to shoot just 2-14 from the field in defeat.
Vanderbilt's cold shooting inside the arc mirrored the snow that fell outside and chained the team to an early deficit. The Commodores made only one of their first 10 two-point shots as the Wildcats ran out to a 29-16 lead with seven minutes to go in the first half. That frigid streak - and 13 Kentucky points off eight Vandy turnovers - helped the home team post a 37-27 lead at halftime that didn't feel nearly as close as the score indicated.
The Commodores cut that lead to seven early in the half, but the 'Cats punched back with a 14-4 run that put Vanderbilt on its heels. Jeff Roberson and Jones stemmed that tide with a pair of strong buckets, but Kentucky rode the momentum of an energized home crowd to create four straight three-point possessions and push their lead to 67-46 with eight minutes to play. The 'Dores unofficially threw in the towel afterwards, putting reserves like Josh Henderson, Joe Toye, and Camron Justice into the game as the clock wound down.
Jones had 13 points and nine rebounds in a 31-minute, two foul effort. Jeff Roberson added 12. Kentucky guard Tyler Ulis led all scorers with 21 points while one-time Vanderbilt recruiting target Alex Poythress had one of his best games of the season with 16.
Vanderbilt is now 11-8 on the season and 3-4 in SEC play. Kentucky improved to 15-4 and 5-2 with the victory. The Commodores will return to the hardwood on Tuesday when they welcome Florida to Nashville.