In a game that will likely have major ramifications on their NCAA Tournament hopes, Vanderbilt got one of the biggest wins of its season.
The Commodores used a huge second half rally to topple No. 16 Kentucky on Saturday. Matthew Fisher-Davis's 20 points led Vanderbilt to a 74-62 win that should push the team to the happy side of the postseason bubble.
Vanderbilt rolled into Saturday's game on a hot streak. The Commodores had won two straight games, including a road win at Florida on Tuesday. However, they faced a Wildcat team that didn't just stand atop the SEC standings - they also had the confidence of a 76-57 win over the 'Dores back in January.
Vanderbilt took a pair of early leads in the first half, but had no answer for Kentucky freshman Jamal Murray. Murray put on a clinic against the Commodore defense, springing for 21 points on just 11 shots in the first 20 minutes. The Wildcats led 35-27 with four minutes left in the half, but some clutch shooting from Matthew Fisher-Davis and a last-second Luke Kornet tip-in brought VU to within three points at the break. The three-point deficit was a moral victory for the home team - they kept close to the No. 16 Wildcats despite getting only four points from Damian Jones. No Commodore starter scored fewer points in the first half.
Jones came out energized in the second half. He scored seven straight VU points to reassure the Wildcats that this was a different Commodore team than the one they faced four weeks ago. Fisher-Davis reinforced that idea with back-to-back threes that gave Vandy a 49-45 lead, pushed the Memorial Gym crowd to its feet, and forced John Calipari to call a timeout.
The Wildcats came back punching, and these two teams traded baskets until a Jeff Roberson and-one drive and a pair of Jones free throws gave Vandy its largest lead of the game at 65-56. Kentucky scored four quick points to keep the roof from blowing off Memorial Gym, but a combination of stout defense and balanced scoring kept the 'Dores in the lead as the clock wound down. The Wildcats did a great job of keeping Vandy off the scoreboard - they went more than four minutes without a made shot late in the first half - but the Commodore defense prevented UK from mounting a comeback.
Tyler Ulis and the 'Cats struggled through six field goal-less minutes of their own as the 'Dore defense clamped down on Kentucky's jump shooting. The visitors' cold snap couldn't come at a better time for Vanderbilt; UK spent the final 6:14 of the game without making a shot. That allowed the Commodores to push their lead to 74-62 before emptying their bench. Players like Phillip McGloin and Carter Josephs entered the game for the final 45 seconds as John Calipari sent his players to the locker room in advance of a potential court storming.
Loathe to disappoint their visitors, Commodore fans - a few of them at least - found their way to center court to celebrate the victory.
Vanderbilt improved to 18-11 and 10-6 in SEC play with the victory. Kentucky fell to 21-8 and 11-5. The Commodores will return to the court on Tuesday when they host Tennessee on Senior Night. Tipoff is 6pm CST.