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No. 12 Kentucky rallies to beat Vanderbilt

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kentucky coach John Calipari watched his Wildcats fall behind by as many as 14 points in the first half and enter the locker room down with their biggest deficit of the season on the road at Vanderbilt.

No yelling. No tirade. Calipari only told his Wildcats to start throwing the ball inside to Nick Richards.

Tyrese Maxey scored 25 points, and 12th-ranked Kentucky rallied from their biggest halftime deficit this season to beat Vanderbilt 78-64 Tuesday night.

“The whole point of this is them learning about themselves,” Calipari said. “And I said, ‘They made eight 3s guys, and you missed five 1-foot shots. This is going to be what the score is.'”

Ashton Hagans backed up his coach.

“He was real calm,” Hagans said of Calipari. “He wanted us to work it out altogether and talk on it. You know, we came out there and just we were the aggressor in the second half and we were just trying to get the win.”

The Wildcats (19-5, 9-2) did that to keep a piece of the lead atop the Southeastern Conference standings with Auburn and LSU. The Wildcats also won their eighth straight over Vanderbilt, though this was the fifth time in this streak that they’ve had to rally from a double-digit deficit after clawing back to a 36-27 deficit at halftime.

Immanuel Quickley also had 18 points, Nick Richards had 12 and Hagans finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds in Calipari’s 400th career game at Kentucky.

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Vanderbilt (9-15, 1-10) was looking to make Kentucky the second straight ranked team to come into Memorial Gym and lose within the past week after the Commodores upset then-No. 18 LSU.

“It’s just a matter of want-to,” first-year coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “Once they got back into the game, they kind of sensed that we were on our heels they took it up a notch. We’ve got to find a way to battle adversity and still be able to find that next level. I think that’s just part of our growth.”

Saben Lee led Vanderbilt with 20 points. Dylan Disu had 12 points and 10 rebounds, Scotty Pippen Jr. had 13 and Maxwell Evans 10.

Kentucky looked like a different team in the second half. The Wildcats finally took their first lead on a Maxey layup with 11:16 left at 48-46 during a 24-4 run. Richards’ dunk capped the spurt with Kentucky up 59-48 with 6:11 to go.

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The Commodores pulled within 62-57 with 4:17 left after Jordan Wright stole the ball on the inbounds play. Quickley answered with consecutive 3s to push Kentucky’s lead back to double digits.

Vanderbilt ranks fourth in the SEC shooting (33%) from 3-point range, and the Commodores opened with Pippen hitting a 3 to put the Commodores ahead. Four others made at least one 3 as Vanderbilt shot better outside the arc than Kentucky from the floor. Lee hit Vanderbilt’s eighth 3 of the half to put the Commodores up 34-20, and he added a pair of free throws with 3:51 to match that 14-point lead.

Vanderbilt then went cold and didn’t score again the rest of the half. Kentucky wasn’t much better. Maxey’s jumper with 3:12 to go the Wildcats’ last field goal of the half, but Quickley made three free throws with 35.4 seconds left for a 36-27 halftime deficit that was Kentucky’s largest this season.

BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: The Wildcats came in second in the SEC and 15th in the country defending against the 3, allowing opponents to shoot nearly 29% outside the arc. They just couldn’t slow down Vanderbilt in the first half as the ‘Dores shot 47.1% (8 of 17). That changed in the second half as the Wildcats held Vandy to just 3 of 11 from 3-point range. … The Wildcats outrebounded Vandy 43-32 and also had a 40-20 scoring edge in the paint.

Vanderbilt: The Commodores are playing without the SEC’s leading scorer in Aaron Nesmith, lost after the SEC opener, with Clevon Brown also out with injury. Stackhouse has been getting production from everyone on his roster, including a 3-pointer from walk-on Braelee Albert in building that big lead.

MAXEY DIFFERENCE

Calipari said the big difference for Kentucky was how Maxey played through contact and finished off shots rather than heaving up one-handed attempts once bumped. Maxey was 10 of 17.

“For the first time this year, Tyrese Maxey played with a toughness to win versus just play basketball,” Calipari said. “First time this year. So you have to understand. I’ve been all over this and all over him and not settling, so that was a good sign.”

UP NEXT

Kentucky hosts Ole Miss on Saturday.

Vanderbilt starts a two-game road swing Saturday at Florida.

Wednesday’s Things to Know: Vanderbilt snaps SEC losing streak; Purdue smashes Iowa; Baldwin lifts Butler over Villanova

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Wednesday night in college basketball had plenty of twists. One of the sport’s longest conference losing streaks ended, Purdue decimated another top-25 opponent at home and Butler secured an important Big East home win thanks to the heroics of senior guard Kamar Baldwin. 

1. Vanderbilt snaps 26-game SEC losing streak with upset win

The streak is finally over.

During a week in which athletic director Malcolm Turner parted ways with the program after only one year at the helm, Vanderbilt notched its first SEC win in almost two seasons with a 99-90 home upset of No. 18 LSU.

Winless in the SEC last season, this is Vanderbilt’s first conference win since a road win at Ole Miss (March 3, 2018).

Saben Lee (33 points) and Maxwell Evans (31 points) both had big nights to pace the Commodores. Vanderbilt shot 57 percent (35-for-61) from the floor and had little issue scoring on an LSU team that was previously unbeaten in SEC play.

This win isn’t going to salvage head coach Jerry Stackhouse’s first season. Vanderbilt still has worlds to go before they become regularly competitive in the SEC. Knocking off the undefeated conference leader is a major step in the right direction. During a week (and a season) in which the Commodores could have easily called it quits and went winless in league play for a second straight year, Vanderbilt earned one of the more unlikely upsets of the past few weeks.

Vanderbilt’s upset win isn’t quite on par with Stephen F. Austin beating Duke at Cameron or Evansville upsetting Kentucky at Rupp. But it might amount to at least the feel-good conference upset of the season.

2. Purdue claims another blowout home win over No. 17 Iowa

Purdue earned a blowout win over No. 17 Iowa on Wednesday night with a decisive 104-68 Big Ten home victory.

Shooting a ridiculous 19-for-34 from three-point range, the Boilermakers scored 61 points in the first half and never looked back. Following an impressive comeback road win to close out Northwestern over the weekend, Purdue continued a strong stretch to improve to 6-6 in Big Ten play.

Senior forward Evan Boudreaux was 4-for-6 from three-point range to pace the Boilermakers with 18 points. Boudreaux was one of five Purdue players to score at least 13 points in the balanced effort.

Walk-ons were subbed in with over four minutes left. Broadcasters wondered, “where has this team been all year!?” Purdue generally looked like a team that should be in the top 25 with the way they played on Wednesday night.

But the question still remains after another blowout home win: is Purdue a legitimate threat going forward? Or are they just really good at home?

We’ve seen the Boilermakers run past quality teams at home plenty of times this season. Purdue already has 29-point home wins over Virginia and Michigan State. Wisconsin fell victim in West Lafayette by 19 points a few weeks ago. Iowa is just the latest in a string of blowout home wins for Matt Painter’s crew.

So, while Purdue deserves credit for another decisive Q1 home win, it remains to be seen if this win can help them establish a consistent presence away from home. Only 2-5 in true road games this season — with underwhelming wins against Ohio and Northwestern — Purdue will get a major road test on Saturday when they face Indiana. Rivalry matchups on the road are always a giant test. We’ll see if Purdue can sustain the recent momentum in Bloomington to earn its biggest road win of the season.

3. Kamar Baldwin’s buzzer-beater lifts Butler past Villanova

The night’s only matchup between top-25 teams ended in dramatic fashion.

Kamar Baldwin calmly buried a stepback three to lift No. 19 Butler over No. 10 Villanova for an important Big East win.

With the victory, Butler moves within a game of the Wildcats for second place in the conference. The middle of the pack remains crowded in the Big East. This is also the type of home win the Bulldogs needed if they want any chance at a Big East regular-season title.

Vanderbilt’s Aaron Nesmith out with foot injury

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Vanderbilt guard Aaron Nesmith, the SEC’s leading scorer, is expected to miss time with a foot injury, the school announced on Saturday.

Nesmith missed Saturday’s Vanderbilt loss to Texas A&M. Before the game, Nesmith was in a boot as teammates went through warmups. According to the Vanderbilt Hustler, Nesmith sustained a stress fracture in his right foot. That injury could cost Nesmith several weeks — if not the rest of the season.

The 6-foot-6 sophomore flourished under first-year head coach Jerry Stackhouse before the injury. Nesmith produced at a high level, averaging 23.0 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals per contest. Shooting 51 percent from the floor and 52 percent from three-point range, Nesmith became a premier perimeter shooting threat. Nesmith’s strong play has led him to become an NBA Draft prospect as early as this summer.

Injuries have crushed the Commodores over the past two seasons. Senior forward Clevon Brown is already out indefinitely with a knee injury. Vanderbilt lost lottery pick point guard Darius Garland last season just weeks into the season. The team eventually went winless in the SEC and moved on from previous head coach Bryce Drew.

Things were looking positive for Vanderbilt with a five-point loss to unbeaten Auburn earlier this week. But the loss to Texas A&M on Saturday extends an agonizingly long SEC losing streak to 22 games.

Without Nesmith and Brown, Vanderbilt will have to rely on junior guard Saben Lee and freshman guard Scotty Pippen Jr. When Vanderbilt was very depleted last season, Lee played heavy minutes. Pippen, on the other hand, is unproven in league play as a newcomer.

Down to only eight scholarship players, Vanderbilt needs to get healthy sooner than later. Stackhouse will have to handle a depleted roster lacking star power during at least the next several weeks. The goal for the Commodores will be to pick up its first SEC win since 2018.

Kenyon Martin Jr. to pursue professional career

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RJ Hampton may be the biggest recruit to be playing next season overseas, but he won’t have the biggest name.

Kenyon Martin, Jr., son of the former Cincinnati legend and NBA All-Star, will bypass college and immediately pursue a professional career abroad, he told 247Sports.com.

The younger Martin committed last month to another former NBA star, Jerry Stackhouse, and Vanderbilt but instead will get a head start on his pro career in a yet-to-be determined league.

He joins Hampton in taking the lesser-traveled path of spending a one-and-done season not in college but with a pro franchise. Hampton, a five-star prospect, will play for the New Zealand Breakers of the Australian league.

Martin’s situation would appear to be a little different given he isn’t the same caliber recruit as Hampton as a three-star prospect, but given his father’s NBA success – he was the No. 1 pick in 2000 and an All-Star four years later – he likely has more flexibility to pursue an unorthodox path and access to professional circles than the average prospect does not.

He also considered UCLA, Cincinnati, TCU and West Virginia before committing to Vandy.

Vanderbilt announces it has signed Scotty Pippen Jr.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Former NBA All-Star Jerry Stackhouse’s first signee as Vanderbilt’s head coach is the son of a Hall of Famer.

Vanderbilt announced Thursday that Scotty Pippen Jr, the son of six-time NBA champion Scottie Pippen, has signed a letter of intent to play for the Commodores.

Pippen verbally committed to Vanderbilt in January, when Bryce Drew was still coaching the Commodores. The point guard from Sierra Canyon School in Chatsworth, California, stuck to his verbal commitment and signed with Vanderbilt even after Drew was firedand Stackhouse was hired.

Stackhouse said in a university release that “Scotty is a dynamic point guard who has the ability and poise to make an immediate impact on our roster.”

Drew was fired March 22 after Vanderbilt went 9-23 and closed the season with 20 straight losses. Vanderbilt announced April 5 it had hired Stackhouse, who had been working as a Memphis Grizzlies assistant coach.

Bryce Drew out after three seasons at Vanderbilt

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Vanderbilt has terminated the contract of head coach Bryce Drew after only three seasons, the school announced on Friday.

A shocking move given that Drew was only head coach for a limited time, Vanderbilt has a new athletic director, Malcolm Turner, who recently took over the program in February.

Struggling to a 9-23 record and 0-18 mark in the SEC this season, Vanderbilt was one of the youngest teams in the country. The Commodores also lost McDonald’s All-American and starting freshman point guard Darius Garland to a season-ending knee injury in late November as a promising young core never had a chance to play much together.

Although Drew had a bad season in 2018-19, he took the program to the NCAA tournament in his first season. Drew also recruited two McDonald’s All-Americans (forward Simi Shittu being the guy besides Garland) for the 2018 class — uncommon at a program like Vanderbilt.

According to a report from Stadium’s Jeff Goodman, Turner only had one meeting with Drew and only attended one practice during the season before making his decision. The former president of the NBA G-League, Turner has no experience working in college athletics before taking the AD job at Vanderbilt.

Drew previously spent time coaching his alma mater of Valparaiso as he’s perhaps most famous for his NCAA tournament buzzer-beater against Ole Miss in 1998. The son of legendary Valparaiso head coach Homer Drew, Bryce’s brother, Scott Drew, is head coach at Baylor.

It’s hard to say what direction Vanderbilt it looking to go since this was an unexpected move. But it appears that Turner wants to make his mark as the new AD by bringing in his own guy right away.