NO. 1 KENTUCKY (24-1, 10-0 SEC) AT VANDERBILT (17-7, 6-3 SEC)
Time: 9 p.m.
Location: Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn.
Kentucky 4 (No. 1 SEC)
Vanderbilt 25 (No. 3 SEC)
Line: Kentucky +4.5 (135 o/u)
Kentucky Players to Watch: F Anthony Davis, 6-10 Fr. (14 ppg, 10 rpg, 4.8 bpg); F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, 6-7 Fr. (12.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.2 apg); G Marquis Teague, 6-2 Fr. (9.7 ppg, 4.6 apg, 2.5 rpg). Davis is the reigning SEC Player of the Week and is becoming a serious national Player of the Year candidate. In wins over Tennessee and South Carolina last week, the freshman averaged 20 points, eight boards and 7.5 blocks. In Wednesday’s 78-58 win over No. 7 Florida, Davis finished with 16 points – on 6-of-8 shooting – six rebounds and four blocks.
Vanderbilt Players to Watch: G John Jenkins, 6-4 Jr. (19.7 ppg, 48.2% FG, 44.3% 3s); F Jeffery Taylor, 6-7 Sr. (17.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 53.7% FG); C Festus Ezeli, 6-11 Sr. (10 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 53.3% FG). After scoring 19 points and hitting 3-of-5 3-pointers in Vandy’s 76-61 win over LSU, Taylor leads the SEC in scoring (18.2 points per game) and 3-point percentage (59 percent) in SEC games.
Storylines: Kentucky (10-0) is putting some distance between itself and the SEC field, moving 2½ games ahead of Florida with Wednesday’s win. Vandy is 3 ½ games back at 6-3 after ending a 2-game losing streak with its win over LSU.
Key Stats: Kentucky leads the SEC and is ninth in America in scoring defense, allowing just 57.7 points per game. They also lead the SEC in field goal percentage (48.8 percent) and field goal defense (35.8). The Wildcats lead the nation in blocked shots with an astonishing 9.2 per game. Davis easily leads the nation with 116 blocks this year. The Commodores are second in the league in field goal percentage at 46.8 percent and they’re a close second to Florida in 3-point percentage (39.3). Kentucky has the SEC’s best rebounding margin at plus-7.8; Vandy is seventh (plus-1.8). Both teams force a lot of turnovers. The Commodores force 13.6 per contest and Kentucky 12.9. The Commodores are 11-4 at home this season, but they have won eight of their last nine at Memorial Gym. The Wildcats are 5-1 in true road games and have won all five league games away from home.
The Bottom Line: Sometimes it’s hard to remember that the Wildcats are young. Vanderbilt has been tough at home and could cause Kentucky some trouble. The Wildcats will force enough turnovers and turn them into fastbreak points to win the game, but Vandy will keep it close.
The Pick: Kentucky 79, Vanderbilt 75