NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Malik Monk scored six points in the final 32 seconds, and No. 6 Kentucky remained unbeaten in the Southeastern Conference by holding off Vanderbilt 87-81 Tuesday night.
Kentucky (14-2, 4-0) came in having beaten its first three SEC opponents by at least 23 points, something the Wildcats hadn’t done since the 1953-54 season. They looked ready to roll over Vanderbilt, scoring the first nine points of the game, before finding themselves in their tightest game at least in league play this season.
Vanderbilt (8-8, 2-2) closed to 83-81 on Jeff Roberson’s putback with 17.9 seconds left. But the rally fizzled from there.
Monk, who hit Kentucky’s last field goal with 32 seconds left, hit two free throws with 17 seconds left. Vanderbilt’s last shot, a 3 from Matthew Fisher-Davis, was off target with 9 seconds remaining, and Monk finished off the win with two more foul shots.
Isaiah Briscoe led Kentucky with 23 points, De’Aaron Fox had 22, Monk finished with 18 and Edrice “Bam” Adebayo had 14.
Roberson, Fisher-Davis and Riley LaChance each scored 19 points for Vanderbilt. Luke Kornet added 16.
The Wildcats got into early foul trouble that kept Monk and Fox on the bench for much of the first half.
Monk, the SEC’s leading scorer, picked up his second foul with 16:54 left in the first half, followed quickly by Fox getting his second 11 seconds later. They both went to the bench, and the Commodores finally started knocking down some shots.
The Wildcats led 45-41 at halftime but couldn’t push their lead past eight in the second half.
Vanderbilt last led 53-51 on a three-point play by LaChance and stayed close despite the SEC’s best shooters outside the arc hitting just 8 of 29 (27.6 percent).
Kentucky: Coach John Calipari’s young Wildcats haven’t been in many close games so far this season. They got into foul trouble early and also had their worst night shooting outside the arc, finishing just 1 of 9. But they shot 50.7 percent (34 for 67) overall.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores had been making 13.3 3s per game in SEC play. They struggled on a night when Memorial Gym had enough Kentucky blue inside to feel like a road version of Rupp Arena. They also missed too many layups and close shots. Fisher-Davis was 9 of 11 at the line but only 4 of 15 from the floor.
A fan hit a half-court shot at halftime to win a three-year lease on an Acura. He celebrated with a high-five from Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, who sat with Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew’s father, Homer, behind the Vanderbilt bench. Harbaugh is in town for the AFCA convention.
Kentucky: The Wildcats host Auburn on Saturday afternoon.
Vanderbilt: Host in-state rival Tennessee on Saturday night.