NCAA Basketball

College Basketball: Kentucky Gets Big Win vs. Vanderbilt

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This game served as a nice microcosm for Josh Harrellson’s UK career as we send the big guy out with a win after his last game in Rupp.

The game started off very well for the senior from St. Louis. He was doing his thing on the boards, making shots around the basket and even getting one bucket off the drive. The team was up and playing very well. It was like when Josh first got to UK and, in his first exhibition game against Missouri-St. Louis, finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds. The hopes were high for the big fella but things went downhill.

Josh didn’t develop into the player we expected him to be in his first season in Lexington and the team started losing. Similarly, Vandy started giving the ball to Festus Ezeli who embarrassed Josh over and over again at the end of the first half and through the second. However, like Josh, it all worked out in the end.

This season has been a real coming out party for the guy expected to back up Enes Kanter and Eloy Vargas at the beginning of the season. At the end of his career, he has developed into a great player. Just like at the end of the game, Josh stepped up first with a huge block on Jeffrey Taylor and then pulled in a steal off of Fezili to all but ice the game for the Cats.

It was a fantastic way to send off a guy who has given so much to the program and has worked hard to make himself the player he is today.

On the non Josh Harrellson side of things:

- We finally won a close game! We were previously 0-6 in games decided by 5 points or less. Make that 1-6, bitches.

- We finished out the season undefeated at Rupp Arena. This is two straight seasons now for John Calipari. Playing well at home has the same psychological effects that playing poorly on the road has. When the guys can look at a long streak of home wins, it empowers them to play better. Fact: we play this game on the road and we lose.

- We held Vanderbilt to 2-11 from behind the three point line. That’s 10 down from their attempts per game and 6 down from their makes per game. Good perimeter defense.

- We also held John Jenkins to 4 under season average and 16 under his previous mark of 32 he set against us. People were knocking Doron in the second half for his inability to guard Jenkins, but he did a great job of shutting him out early and preventing him from scoring his first field goal until 3 minutes into the first half.

- Vandy played great perimeter defense on us, too. We were held to 4-10 from behind the arc. We didn’t shoot with our normal frequency but we made enough to keep their defense honest, especially when they briefly switch to a zone in the first half.

- As far as individual performances go:

- Brandon Knight proved time and again that he can take over a game if given the tiniest bit of daylight. They had Taylor pressing him hard toward the end of the game but Knight still had some great drives for crucial buckets down the stretch.

- Darius stepped up once again in crunch time with a nice and one and a couple overpowering drives against the one that got out of the Shire, Tinsley.

- Terrence hit two clutch free throws at the end of the game and was able to get his points and rebounds but he really looked lost for long stretches of the game. He traveled on back to back possessions and then once again with a second left on Vandy’s side of the court. He let Taylor blow by him on more than one occasion defensively and he failed to create anything solid on his predictable back down the defender and turn over his right shoulder shot. To think that Jones is NBA-ready at this point is laughable. He definitely needs at least one more year at the college level, but since the draft class will be so weak he’ll probably be gone. I can’t say for a fact that that’s a bad thing, but I’d love to have him back next season.

- Doron and DeAndre played their minutes, didn’t make any turnovers and contributed defensively. I would have liked some more scoring but that will do.

- My parting thought will once again focus on this team’s inability to deliver the finishing blow. We watched a 15 point lead dwindle to a 1 point deficit before buckling down and closing out strong. We have too many mental errors and I feel like we play to our competition. Vandy was missing layups, so we got lackadaisical on offense. That just seems to be this team’s style. I know everyone has talked about that light eventually flicking on and that assassin’s mentality finally shining through but I think we, as fans, need to realize that that may never happen. All we can hope for is that a close win like this has finally given them a taste of crunch time success and that it can be repeated when necessary in the postseason.

- For a first round SEC tournament bye, we need to win at Tennessee and Georgia needs to lose one of two to LSU and Alabama. Even if Georgia wins both games and we fall to the third seed, a win at Tennessee would do worlds of good for this young team. We’ve won a close one. Now we need to win one on the road for that cherry on the confidence sundae.

Go Cats, beat the Vols

Stolen from Jeff Drummond