Friday, March 15, 2013

Vandy crushes Kentucky's NCAA hopes 64-48

For the third time this season Kentucky and Vandy would face off, but this time there was a little more riding on the line for the Cats this time around. Coming into tonight, some had Kentucky already in the NCAA Tournament, but many said the Cats needed to win at least one in Nashville to assure themselves a spot in the "Big Dance". Either way, this would be another "must win game" for the Cats. Would they show up to prove what they are capable of, or would they crack under the pressure of post season play?

Before the game started, the camera panned around the arena and as expected, the crowd was dominated by Kentucky Blue. No one travels like Kentucky fans which is why I say it's hard for me to see the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee leaving the Cats out especially with them having 20 wins on the season. But, we all know how smart the selection committee is.

Kentucky opened the game with a missed three and giving Vandy a quick chance on the other end. After a Vandy turnover on their first possession, Archie Goodwin quickly turned it over for the Cats allowing Vandy to take an early 2-0 lead on a easy layup. As quickly as that happened, Cauley-Stein dunked one through to tie it up at 2 all, but Vandy came right back to drill a deep three to take a 5-2 lead. It seemed that the quick pace of the game favored Vandy in the early going. For some reason, this Kentucky team just doesn't matchup well with the Commodores.

At the first timeout, Kentucky trailed Vandy  5-4 as the play was fast and furious for the first 5 minutes. Kentucky had trouble once again stopping dribble penetration and guarding the perimeter. the good thing was they seemed to have been focused on Rod Odom after his 20 point outburst last night and going 5-9 from deep.  They would have to keep him in check to ensure they would have a chance to pick up the much needed win.

Vanderbilt's defense in the first half seemed to cause the Cats some problems as they struggled to drive the lane or find the open man in transition. Not to mention, Kyle Wiltjer continued his dismal play early in the first as he just looked plain scared to even attempt a shot. But the one player that drew the heat from coach Cal early and often was once again, Ryan Harrow who was obviously not himself. Ryan has struggled for a majority of the season and watching him head to the bench with every coach on the staff trying to "coach" him, it makes one wonder if this could possibly be Ryan's last season in Lexington.

The bright spot early for the Cats was the "manly" play of Alex Poythress crashing the boards on the offensive end grabbing two in the early going and hitting a long three to cut the Vandy lead to 14-12. He must continue this type of play for 40 minutes every game for Kentucky to reach their potential.

After a half that made you want to gouge your eyes out if you were a Kentucky fan, the Cats went to the break down 37-23.


(click to enlarge)

I'm really at a loss for words about the performance or lack there of by the Cats in the first half of this one. It's odd how they can play so well against a team like Florida and then you get what we witnessed here tonight in the first half against a team like Vandy who Kentucky is far better than regardless of how this one ended up.

Kentucky started the second half with a three from Julius Mays for his first points of the game, something they could've used a lot more of in the first half. But just that quick, Vandy rushed out to a 41-26 lead after an uncontested lay up as a result of an unforced turnover by Julius Mays. The longer you watched this game, the more you wanted to turn the channel, but I never have and I never will change the channel, I like the punishment I guess.

Another Kentucky turnover, another Vandy three as they extended their lead to 44-26 all the while making the Cats look less and less like a tournament team with each passing minute. Kentucky couldn't do anything right and Vandy could do no wrong as they shot the ball better tonight (67%) than at any point this season where they averaged only 45% from the field.

With 13:11 to go in the game, as chants of "GO BIG BLUE" poured down from the rafters in Nashville, Kentucky put together a 8-0 run as they cut the Vandy lead to 48-35. Then a dunk by Archie Goodwin that was ESPN top 10 worthy, cut the lead even more to 48-37 forcing Vandy to call a timeout to calm the storm. This game was a virtual home game for the Cats as BBN made their presence felt in the second half. But as things settled down and Kentucky cooled off, Vandy silenced the crowd with yet another three that pushed back out to a 53-37 lead all while still shooting a blistering 60% from the field.

With 6:53 to go, the score set at 55-41 with Kentucky doing everything they could to battle back, but it appeared that they had dug themselves too deep of a hole to get out of. At the under 4 timeout, Kentucky trailed 62-45 and really shouldn't have been that close. Kentucky was outworked out hustled all night long. Aside from the three or four minute spurt in the second half where they cut the lead to 11, Kentucky looked like they didn't even want to be on the court tonight. Coming into this game, I said even with a loss to Vandy Kentucky could still be in the tournament. After seeing them get abused the way they did tonight, I'm not so sure. They very well could be sweating out Selection Sunday as they wait to hear their fate.


Kentucky fans started filing out of the building with 2:14 to go in the game, to tell the truth, I wouldn't have waited that long. It was hard to watch form the opening tip as Kentucky struggled in just about every aspect of the game. It's hard to judge this team over these last few weeks with the absence of Noel. One has to think had Noel been available, Kentucky would have ended the season on a much brighter note than this, but you can't blame everything we've seen on the loss of Noel. I've said it before and I'll continue to say it, Kentucky has more talent on the floor than anyone in the SEC other than Florida, so a lot of this falls at the feet of the players. You'll hear Cal taking the blame in his post game comments, but that's just Cal being Cal, CLASSY. He's not one to throw his players under the bus like a lot of other coaches have done at times. The bulk of the blame fall on these guys not giving the effort they needed to give.

Your final from Nashville 64-48 and Joe Lunardi just updated his bracket and has the Cats in the "Last four out" column. If you're a Kentucky fan, you have got to root for an Ole Miss loss as they move into the "last four in" column.

box score and post game quotes to follow soon.....

Now on to Selection Sunday.

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