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Kentucky 76, Vanderbilt 57: Vanderbilt Does Some Things Well, Gets Blown Out Anyway

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Sometimes, your shots aren't falling. Sometimes, the other team's shots are falling. Sometimes, both of these things happen in the same game.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

In Lexington on Saturday, Vanderbilt won the rebounding battle, got to the free throw line 19 more times than Kentucky did, made their free throws, and limited turnovers to an acceptable level.  Damian Jones stayed out of foul trouble for the first time in what seems like years -- in fact, no Commodore was whistled for more than two fouls.

And the Commodores lost by 19 points.

Kentucky Four Factors

When the last three bars of the Four Factors -- offensive rebounds, turnovers, and free throw rate -- look like they do in the chart, you are probably going to win most of the time.  When the first bar -- shooting percentage -- looks like it does, you are probably going to lose -- by a lot more than 19 points, I might add.

Kentucky had an effective FG% of 60.0% -- which not only represented Vanderbilt's worst defensive performance of the season, but also Kentucky's second-best shooting performance.  Vanderbilt had an effective FG% of 37.0% -- which was, just narrowly, their second-worst shooting performance of the season (against South Carolina, it was 36.9%.)  You are not going to win many games with those numbers.

What happened?  I speculated in the comments yesterday that Kentucky's players, more than most teams, are accustomed to shooting over 7-footers.  When you've been practicing against the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein in the past, you've figured out exactly what you need to do to get the ball over Damian Jones and Luke Kornet.  Alex Poythress, Tyler Ulis, and Marcus Lee -- the Wildcats' three most experienced players -- combined to shoot 18-for-23 on two-pointers.  Against most teams, relying on Damian and Luke to contest shots in the paint is a viable defensive strategy.  Against Kentucky?  Not so much.  Perhaps, a better idea would have been to force the Wildcats to take jump shots -- Kentucky shot 6-of-19 on three-pointers.

On the other end of the floor, Vanderbilt could get absolutely nothing to drop -- the Commodores shot a pitiful 11-for-35 on two-pointers and a slightly better 5-for-15 on threes.  But those numbers were way off their season averages, and making things worse, a lot of those shots came on good looks.  More baseless speculation: the Commodores might have been affected by the unusual travel schedule, having arrived in Lexington on Thursday after traveling straight from Knoxville after the game on Wednesday night.  These guys hadn't slept in their own beds since Tuesday; even John Calipari speculated that that might have affected them.

Individual Stats

Player MIN FG FGA 3FG 3FGA FT FTA ORB DRB REB PF PTS AST TO BLK STL AdjGS GS/Min
Damian Jones 31 5 7 0 0 3 6 2 7 9 2 13 1 1 2 1 22.3 0.72
Jeff Roberson 32 3 6 2 3 4 4 0 0 0 2 12 0 1 0 0 11.7 0.37
Joe Toye 12 1 1 0 0 3 4 0 0 0 0 5 1 0 0 0 8.1 0.68
Luke Kornet 22 2 8 1 3 2 2 2 5 7 2 7 2 2 0 0 6.0 0.27
Nolan Cressler 12 1 2 0 1 1 1 0 3 3 0 3 0 0 0 0 4.7 0.39
Samir Sehic 2 0 2 0 0 2 2 2 1 3 0 2 0 0 0 0 3.7 1.87
Josh Henderson 6 1 3 0 0 0 0 1 1 2 0 2 0 0 0 1 3.7 0.62
Matthew Fisher-Davis 21 1 4 1 3 0 0 1 3 4 1 3 0 0 0 0 2.9 0.14
Carter Josephs 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.00
Riley LaChance 21 1 5 1 3 0 0 0 1 1 1 3 1 1 0 0 -0.8 -0.04
Wade Baldwin IV 32 1 9 0 1 5 6 0 1 1 1 7 2 5 1 1 -2.1 -0.07
Camron Justice 7 0 3 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 -3.4 -0.40
  • Damian Jones not only stayed out of foul trouble for the first time in forever, he also played a pretty good game. And got no help from his teammates. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • Aside from Jones and the criminally underrated Jeff Roberson, the starters' performances ranged from "meh" (Luke Kornet) to bad (Riley LaChance) to "really, you guys think that guy is a better NBA prospect than Tyler Ulis?" (Wade Baldwin IV)
  • Joe Toye gets minutes (finally), impresses.  Except Nolan Cressler actually did something positive as well.
  • Samir Sehic posting the sixth-highest Game Score in two minutes of action... no offense to Samir, but that's not something I want to see (out of everybody else, not him.)

What's Next

It's back to Nashville on Tuesday night to welcome the Florida Gators, who cleaned Auburn's clock 95-63 on Saturday to pick up their third straight win.  The Gators come in with a record of 13-6, 5-2 in the SEC, and ranked #21 in the RPI.

I don't want to overstate the implications of this game, but Tuesday night's game is one that Vanderbilt absolutely has to have.  There may not be a realistic way for Vanderbilt to make the tournament that doesn't involve beating the Gators at Memorial Gym.