Vanderbilt just gave the rest of the NCAA tournament field some hope.
The Commodores took down No. 1 Kentucky 71-64 in the SEC tournament title, denying the ‘Cats a chance to sweep the league’s regular-season and tourney titles, not to mention taking some of the sheen off the nation’s most dominant team. Kentucky entered the game with 24 consecutive wins.
It took some doing, though.
Vandy (24-10) got 18 points from Jeff Taylor, 15 from John Jenkins (who struggled with his shot) and 17 points and six rebounds from senior center Festus Ezeli, who was awfully effective against Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, who has 12 points and 10 rebounds, but wasn’t a factor late. Same could be said for the rest of UK, though. It didn’t make a basket in the final eight minutes and couldn’t match Vandy’s 17-5 run in that span.
“We played really tough. Our guys played hard-nosed and played really well,” coach Kevin Stallings told CBS afterward said . “We played great on the defensive end. When they made their runs, we responded. I’m very proud of our guys.”
Did Kentucky (32-2) need the win to regain focus for the NCAA tournament? Is there some pressure taken off the Wildcats’ shoulders? It didn’t play its best during the last three days, beating LSU by nine and Florida by three. But that seems more like tired legs rather than a lack of motivation or overconfidence.
And give credit to Vandy. It was more composed down the stretch and showcased some defense some weren’t sure the Commodores could play.
“We’re just happy to win. You don’t get a chance to play for championships very often,” Stallings said. We’re just happy to win.”
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