NASHVILLE — Given the role of decision maker down the stretch at Vanderbilt on Saturday, DeAndre Liggins committed two turnovers and took a couple of debatable three-point shots.
Those shots capped a frustrating day for Liggins that included a technical foul, which lessened the minutes UK's best defender could guard Vandy's leading scorer, John Jenkins. But UK Coach John Calipari recoiled from an invitation to criticize Liggins.
"He's not the issue for us," Calipari said after Vandy's 81-77 victory. "He's trying as hard as he can. Anybody who tries that hard, you give (a pass)."
For the first time this season, Kentucky lost a game in which Liggins scored double-digit points.
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Calipari seemed to identify UK's issue.
"You're in a dogfight (and) we have a couple guys who don't have that mentality," the UK coach said. "They don't come up with balls, maybe don't attempt to. ...
"Where's the competitive fire? ... The will to win. ... There's a ball, just go get it."
No foul on Jones?
Calipari suggested he'd look at the game tape closely to see if the referees missed a foul on Terrence Jones' three-point attempt in the final seconds. Three free throws would have given UK a chance to erase a four-point deficit by making two free throws and a putback on an intentional miss.
When asked if he was fouled, Jones said, "Yeah. He didn't call it. We had a lot of opportunities way before that foul, so I'm not putting it on that."
Cal corrects Lamb
Trailing 42-38, UK called time with 29 seconds left in the first half. Freshman Kyle Fuller foiled the strategy by stripping Brandon Knight of the ball. Knight recovered to block Fuller's layup in transition, but Jenkins was by himself for an easy putback.
Perhaps that was why Calipari spoke to Doron Lamb as the half ended.
"Why didn't you run?" Calipari said he asked Lamb. "He jogged (chuckles). Why did you do that? In AAU games, that's what you do."
Among the misplays that hurt UK down the stretch:
■ Knight threw a lob for Jones or tried a floater. It was hard to tell.
"I was trying to get it up on the rim," Knight said, "because I knew Terrence was going to get after it."
But Jones said he was worried about an offensive goal-tending call and backed off.
■ Trailing 77-75, UK wanted to foul Jeffery Taylor, who made only one of seven shots and failed to reach double digits for only the second time in the last 18 games. "We went for the steal instead of fouling," Calipari said. "That's just inexperience."
Liggins was the player who went for the steal.
UK fouled Brad Tinsley, an 89-percent free thrower in SEC player rather than Taylor (66.7 percent).
Two days after lauding Jon Hood's boxing ability, Calipari lamented the long rebound the sophomore did not track down.
"Since we're not boxing, you have to come up with the ball," Calipari said. "It was a rebound we should have had (and Vandy got) a kick-out three. It's too close of a game. Too big a game. That's not acceptable. You've go to come up with that ball.
"He's going to have more chances. If Darius is hurt, Jon will have opportunities to play."
Acclaim for Jenkins?
Vandy Coach Kevin Stallings downplayed the notion of John Jenkins gaining a national reputation after scoring 32 points against UK.
"I'll let the media worry about that," Stallings said. "He will still get yelled at in practice Monday.
"He's a great team guy. He runs around and shoots and he does his best on defense. That's what makes his success fun to watch."
Darius Miller left the game in the second half with a groin injury. Although Miller later returned, UK spokesman DeWayne Peevy said Miller would be questionable for the game Tuesday against Mississippi State.
Knight's 20 points enabled him to set a record for a UK freshman. It was his 10th game of 20 or more points. He shared the previous record of nine with Patrick Patterson and Rex Chapman. ... Jones' 25 points marked his eighth game of 20 or more points, which tied John Wall for fourth on UK's list. ... Since divisional play began in 1991-92, the only other time Kentucky lost five SEC road games was in 2006-07. Tubby Smith's last UK team went 3-5 on the SEC road.