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Kentucky Basketball

Kentucky Explodes in Second Half, Defeats Vanderbilt 78-64

February 11, 2020

Kentucky found itself in some trouble once again against Vandy tonight in Nashville, but once again they responded with a fantastic second half to win in Nashville, 78-64. Kentucky trailed at halftime in Lexington back on January 29th, 35-28, and came back to win 71-62. Tonight, the Cats and Commodores wrote a similar script to this game, as the Cats came out listless and seemingly unfocused, trailing Vandy at halftime 36-27, before exploding for 51 points in the second half and blitzing Vanderbilt to win 78-64 in storied Memorial Gym.

Vandy had the “Memorial Magic” working in the first half tonight, as they hit 8 threes and led by as many as 14 before Kentucky could cut it to 9 at halftime. The first half saw UK commit 6 turnovers to Vandy’s 3, miss the few easy looks they could get, and play a very sloppy off-balanced half on offense. Hagans and Quickley were beginning to force the action on offense and they Cats lost all rhythm and focus on their offensive game-plan. The only steady contributor on offense in the first half was Tyrese Maxey, as he tallied 10 points. They were even worse on defensive, giving up countless open threes, as Vandy used quick ball movement and the extra pass to knock down their eight first-half threes. Vandy played a 5-out offense, drove and kicked to the perimeter or penetrated all the way to the basket without much resistance, as Kentucky was slow to rotate to shooters and to protect the rim. Immanuel Quickley’s three free throws brought the Cats to within 9 at the half, as UK was able to keep Vandy from getting too out of range.

The second half was a totally different story, as Kentucky turned up the defensive pressure and challenged every drive and shot for the first 10 minutes of play and seized the lead at 48-46, on a Maxey layup with 11:17 left. The lead was extended to 53-46 after the Cats capped an 18-2 run with two EJ Montgomery free throws. The teams exchanged baskets from there until a mini-run pulled Vandy to within 5 at 62-57. UK answered with a quick 8-0 run on two threes from Quickley and an Ashton Hagans lay-up to put the game away with the Cats leading 70-57, with just 2:08 left. Kentucky finally broke the press that had earlier forced 2 quick turnovers and scored on a dunk and two lay-ups, and Quickley capped the huge second half with two free throws to give Kentucky the final 78-64 margin. UK’s “big 4” of Hagans, Richards, Quickley, and Maxey combined to score 45 of UK’s 51 second-half points, as they were all effective doing what they do best. Maxey scored in every way, Quickley hit three second-half threes and all of his free throws, Hagans defended tremendously and distributed effectively, and Richards dominated the paint on both ends.

Kentucky ended the game shooting 47.5% over-all from the field, 66.7% from three (on only 9 attempts), and again, a sparkling 84.2% from the free-throw line on 16 for 19. Kentucky controlled the boards with a +11 margin and was able to block 12 of Vandy’s shot attempts, three each by Richards, Montgomery, and Sestina. The Cats challenged shots extremely well in the second half. Vandy made 11 of 28 threes but were only able to manage 11 makes from inside the arch. The ‘Dores also shot it poorly from the free-throw line, only converting 9 of 17 freebies. The “Go Big Blue” road chant was started with about 10 minutes to go, as the Cats were taking control, and came back often, as the boys in blue were able to roll to a 14 point road win. Next up are the Ole Miss Rebels on Saturday in Rupp. They come to Lexington riding high off an impressive 25 point win at home over rival Mississippi State, for their 3rd win in a row. The Cats now stand at 19-5 over-all, but more importantly, keep pace at the top of the SEC at 9-2. The Cats and Rebels will tip off Saturday at 2 pm on ESPN.

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Kentucky Explodes in Second Half, Defeats Vanderbilt 78-64

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