With its season in dire jeopardy, Kentucky exploded out of the gate on the strength of a new player introduction video and inspired play to jump on top by 14 points early en route to a 74-70 victory over Vanderbilt.
It began with a new video during introductions of the starting lineup. Each UK players was on screen saying, “Let’s fight,” and “We are Kentucky basketball.”
Then UK did just that in building a 42-34 halftime advantage on the strength of 61 percent field goal shooting. Willie Cauley-Stein was perfect at 5-for-5 for 12 points total. Archie Goodwin had 12 on 6-of-9 and Ryan Harrow added 10 on 5-of-7. Combined, UK’s two guards were 11-for-16 with 22 points.
After intermission, Kentucky did a good of holding Vanderbilt at bay, something it did not do in the two-point win at Nashville where the Cats blew a 15-point cushion. By the mid-point, the Cats remained on top by a dozen with Cauley-Stein’s 16 points and Goodwin’s 14 leading the way.
Down the stretch the question became whether UK would run out of gas before the game ran out of clock. Using only seven players, the Cats’ field goal percentage tailed off badly, barely above 30 percent at the 5:54 mark.
At one point, Vandy cut the lead to 61-59, but UK answered with a Julius Mays three-pointer. Then at 34.8 seconds, Cauley-Stein saved the day with a huge rejection to keep the score at 70-65. Cauley-Stein also had a career best 20 points.
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