It's not going to be easy with the 2020-21 version of the Kentucky Wildcats.
After scoring the first 10 points of the game and building a 17 point lead at 25-8 after Isaiah Jackson hit a jumper outside of the paint, the Cats led by twelve points at the half, 42-30.
The beginning of the second half was all Vanderbilt as Kentucky went through one of their infamous scoring droughts. They scored only a BJ Boston Jr. fast break layup after a Commodore turnover through the first 5:01 of the second half.
It took another 90 seconds for them to score again.
Meanwhile Vandy's offense was clicking and tied the game at 13:54 mark at 46 each.
It was a tight game throughout the rest of the half with Kentucky being able to hold small leads. They did stretch a lead to seven, 58-51, with just under ten minutes left but the last four minutes of the game bugaboo came into play once again.
Up seven entering the last four minutes, Vanderbilt would cut it to one, 74-73, with just over a minute left. Vanderbilt had a chance to take the lead after Keion Books Jr. was called for a charge on a highlight reel dunk on a fast break. They missed two shots from the field and two free throws.
Jacob Toppin was fouled and hit both free throws to push the lead back out to three points. After Vandy scored to cut it back to one, he would hit two more free throws to put the lead back to three points. Tobbin had his best game of the season with 16 points, and four rebounds before fouling out.
“Yeah, I think this season is helping me a lot. I’m learning from everything that’s going on. And with the experience that I’m getting, I’m just getting better every day," said Toppin. “We’re still learning as a team. I think we’re getting better playing down the stretch. We still make a few mistakes that we need to fix. But with experience, we’re going to fix them. And I believe in this team. I believe this team is going in the right direction. And we’ve just got to keep pushing.”
Boston would also hit two free throws to preserve the victory as Kentucky went 24-25 from the charity stripe. He would finish with 12 points, four rebounds, 2 assists and three steals.
“Yeah, look, everybody’s going to make a run. What I told them, they’re going to make a run, then you’ve got to make a run back at them. That’s the game of basketball. And then, you’re trying to make the last run of the game, or at least hold on, which is what we did," said Coach John Calipari.
Dontaie Allen received his least amount of playing time for several games playing on 2:32 in the first half with no appearances in the second half.
Davion Mintz led the Wildcats with 18 points with Jackson, 15 and Olivier Starr, 10 rounding out five in double digits. They also placed five in double figures versus Arkansas.
“They’re building their own confidence together. They’re finally becoming a team. But, there are points in the game where guys have got to do what they do. ‘I’ve got to do this.’ And then, all of the sudden, it’s a turnover," Calipari said about whether his team has turned the corner.
- For the second game in a row, UK tied its season high of 82 points.
- With eight 3-pointers made tonight, UK has made 33 long balls over the last three games.
- UK made a season-best 96% at the foul line, 24 of 25.
- That mark is the fourth best under Calipari.
- With 17 assists and 15 turnovers, UK is now 7-2 this season when winning or tying assist/TO margin.
- At 13:56, UK was called for a technical foul for having six men on the court. VU made one of two free throws to tie the game at 46, the only tie of the game.
- Next: Kentucky continues its tour of the Volunteer State by traveling to Knoxville for Saturday’s 1 p.m. CBS game at Tennessee.