AT NO. 1 KENTUCKY (27-1, 13-0 SEC)
Location: Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky.
Vanderbilt 26 (No. 3 SEC)
Kentucky 4 (No. 1 SEC)
Line: Kentucky -12
Vanderbilt Players to Watch: G John Jenkins, 6-4 Jr. (20.1 ppg, 49.3% FG, 45.9% 3s); F Jeffery Taylor, 6-7 Sr. (17.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.4 spg); C Festus Ezeli, 6-11 Sr. (9.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 52.8% FG). Taylor has struggled of late, hitting just five of his last 19 shots and two of his last 11 3-point shots. Still, he’s shooting 53.4 percent from the floor and 48.6 from the 3-point line.
Kentucky Players to Watch: F Anthony Davis, 6-10 Fr. (13.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 4.8 bpg); F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, 6-7 Fr. (12.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.1 apg); F Terrence Jones, 6-9 So. (12.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 49.6% FG). Kidd-Gilchrist earned his sixth double-double of the season – and his second in four games – in Tuesday’s 73-64 victory over Mississippi State. The freshman ranks sixth in the SEC in rebounding.
Storylines: Kentucky clinched at least a share of the SEC championship with its come-from-behind victory over Mississippi State on Tuesday. The Wildcats are one of four teams who are unbeaten in conference play, having won 19 straight. Vanderbilt was eliminated form title contention with Kentucky’s win over the Bulldogs, but the Commodores are currently in third, a game behind Florida for second in the SEC. Vandy has won three straight after losing to the Wildcats on Feb. 11, which was its third loss in four games.
Keys: Kentucky beat Vanderbilt two weeks ago, 69-63, taking the lead for good on a Doron Lamb 3-pointer with 3:18 left. Davis led the Wildcats, who blocked 12 shots and held the Commodores to 36.5 percent shooting, with 15 points, eight rebounds and seven blocked shots. The Wildcats have five players averaging in double-figures.
Kentucky, which leads the SEC in scoring defense (58.2 points per game) and field goal defense (36.3 percent), is 72-1 under coach John Calipari when holding opponents under 68 points. Vandy is coming off a back-to-back season-lows in scoring output in wins over Georgia (61-52) and South Carolina (59-48 on Wednesday). Overall, the Commodores are third in the SEC in scoring at 73.9 points per game. The Wildcats and Commodores are the league’s two leading free throw shooting teams. Kentucky leads the league at 72.1 percent and Vanderbilt is second at 70.8. Vandy is second in the conference, knocking down 39.8 percent of its 3-point shots. Kentucky leads the SEC and is 10th in the country in rebounding margin at plus-7.3. Vandy is plus-1.9. Kentucky leads the all-time series 135-44, including 75 victories in 89 head-to-head matchups with the Commodores in Lexington. Kentucky and Vandy have split their season series’ the three of the last four years, including last season. Vandy is 5-2 overall in true road games, having beaten Mississippi (102-76 on Feb. 16) and Georgia (61-52 on Sunday) in it last two SEC road games. Kentucky is 16-0 at Rupp this season. UK has won 50 straight on their home court.
The Bottom Line: Kentucky is good. Really good. Especially at home. But the Commodores should control the pace and cover.
The Pick: Kentucky 75, Vanderbilt 64