Three quick takeaways from Kentucky’s 65-57 win over Vanderbilt:
1. Give Vanderbilt some credit. Given Kevin Stallings credit. Your inclination may be to think that Kentucky played poorly since it won by just eight points in a game in which the Cats were favored 22. That wasn’t really the case.
Instead, Vanderbilt played well. Stallings’ very young team was just 1-3 in league play and was coming off a 57-54 loss at Mississippi State, but it played hard and smart against the nation’s top-ranked. “Every time we made a mistake, they made us pay,” said UK coach John Calipari.
And Vandy has a chance to be really good in a couple of years. Riley LaChance, Wade Baldwin IV, Matthew Fisher-Davis, Shelton Mitchell and Jeff Roberson are all freshmen. Damian Jones and Luke Kornet are sophomores. Stallings joked that Calipari can’t say he has the youngest team anymore, because Vandy was younger.
2. Aaron Harrison took over. The Kentucky guard had scored just one point all night when he stepped to the line with 5:51 left and UK clinging to a 52-48 lead.
Aaron made both free throws. He then buried a dagger of a three from the left corner with 2:07 left to make it 61-54. “That kind of broke us,” Stallings said.
Aaron scored just two points in the first half, but Calipari said that when Harrison is playing like he played in the final minutes, “he can be the best player in the country.”
3. The most surprising stat of the whole night was offensive rebounds. That’s a stat Kentucky normally dominates. Instead, UK grabbed just 10 offensive boards compared to 21 defensive boards for Vanderbilt. That’s 32.3 percent, the third-lowest figure of the season. UK got just 31.6 percent of its offensive rebound opportunities against Texas and 32 percent against Texas A&M.
Also, the Cats took just six three-pointers, making four. Stallings said the Commodores didn’t really do anything special to try to limit UK on the threes, even though Kentucky had made 16 of 35 over its last to games. But the six attempts was a season-low. The Cats were two-of-seven from three against Providence.
Vanderbilt shot 41.5 percent and made seven of 18 threes for 38.9 percent. The Commodores couldn’t get to the foul line enough and made just six of their 12 attempts. They ended up averaging 0.868 points per possession to 1.012 for Kentucky.