After Saturday night’s big road win at West Virginia, there was talk among the BBN that Tuesday night’s game against the visiting Vanderbilt could be a letdown game. It was a late tip, the Commodores were sitting at the bottom of the SEC standings, and Kentucky was favored to win fairly easily. A recipe for disaster, right?
It was indeed more difficult than it should have been but Coach John Calipari’s young troops displayed a will to win in the final 5 minutes of regulation and then finished off the Commodores in overtime sealing the victory by a final score of 83-81.
It appeared in the first couple of minutes that the Cats were going to build on their last victory as Nick Richards picked up where he left off, scoring 6 of the Cats first 8 points. But Vandy wasn’t going to make this easy and they quickly erased a 5-point deficit and with less than 7 minutes elapsed in the game, took a 1-point lead.
For the remainder of the first half, Kentucky fans endured seeing their team repeat old mistakes. They weren’t fighting for rebounds, they were not making passes, and they were not making shots. It almost seemed miraculous the Cats only trailed by 6 at the half, especially after shooting a woeful 54.5% from the free throw line.
But the BBN wasn’t in panic mode…yet. Having erased a 15-point deficit on Saturday, the expectation was that the Cats would come out on fire in the 2nd half and play Kentucky Basketball. With the Cats drawing first blood to open the half, it appeared they were going to be a different team than what we saw the first twenty minutes. So much for appearances.
In less than 5 minutes of game time, Vandy stretched their lead to 14 points and many Cat fans gave up.
Took one half to turn Kentucky back into a national title contender. And just one more to put 'em right back in the trash. None of us should be allowed to tweet until we pass a test to determine whether we have the proper context and all the necessary information. https://t.co/5amXEKLrlc
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) January 31, 2018
But once again, Cal’s Cats dug in and began chipping away at the Dores’ lead and closed within 3 points at 47-44 with 12:13 remaining in the game. However, nothing seems to come easy for this team and they allowed some easy lay-ups and committed some silly fouls. Vandy stretched their lead out to 10 points with just under 9 minutes remaining in regulation. It just didn’t seem like it would be Kentucky’s night after all.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had other ideas, though. He ended the game with 30 points and 3 assists and Kentucky needed every one of those points. On a night when the Cats were inexplicably beaten on the boards (37-35) and scored exactly zero fast break points, Shai seemingly willed his team to win. After a rather quiet first half, Kevin Knox came to life and aided his teammate finishing the game with 18 points and 8 rebounds.
It may have been Vandy’s Riley Lachance who helped the Cats the most, though. The senior guard brought a little baggage into this game, having missed 4 free throws down the stretch when Kentucky was in Nashville. Those missed FTs played a huge part in the Cats holding on for the win in Memorial. After knocking down 3 treys, it seemed Lachance was going to get his revenge and allow the Dores to steal one in Rupp. But he ended up spending more time than expected on the bench after picking up his 4th foul early in the 2nd half. As the Cats erased Vandy’s lead, Coach Bryce Drew was left with little choice but to put Riley into the game again.
After not having missed a free throw since the previous game against Kentucky, Lachance had another opportunity to seal a win for Vandy and again missed the front end of a 1-and-1. This allowed the Cats to tie the game at the end of regulation and move on to overtime.
In the end, it was Quade Green who was the game’s hero. After losing his starting job to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Quade calmly took the inbounds pass with 12 seconds remaining in a tie game, ran the length of the court, and made an easy lay-up to give the Cats the lead and ultimately the win.
It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t easy, but it was a win. Perhaps Cameron Mills said it best:
What we knew: This team struggles to get started.
What they are teaching each other & us too: They have no quit.
— CAMERON MILLS (@CameronMillz) January 31, 2018
In other words BBN, it ain’t over ’til it’s over!
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