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UK ROAD WARRIORS NUKE VANDY 120-81

Date story published: Thursday, February 8, 1996

NASHVILLE -- Smashed. Flattened into a barely recognizable mess.

Road kill. That's what the opposition ends up looking like when Kentucky plays on the Southeastern Conference road this season.

Last night, Vanderbilt took its turn getting run over by Kentucky. Memorial Gym Magic? It disappeared in a 120-81 Kentucky victory.

The victory -- UK's 18th straight -- widened the Cats' average margin of victory on the SEC road to 24.6 points.

If anything, No. 2 Kentucky was more dominant than ever. The Cats didn't even press, a staple in earlier victories. So what? Although playing with one figurative arm tied behind its back, UK still inflicted Vandy's most lopsided loss in 44-year-old Memorial Gym. The old record: a 119-90 Kentucky victory in 1971.

"Physically, we just overpowered them," UK Coach Rick Pitino said. "Because we have a lot more talent."

Pitino termed it "a superior game. We can't play any better than that."

Kentucky improved to 19-1 overall and 9-0 in the SEC. Vandy fell to 14-8 and 4-5.

Pitino cited unselfish play on offense as a key. The Cats were credited with 30 assists.

"Every time we do that in the passing department, we play awesome basketball," Pitino said. "I don't think we can be any more unselfish. When we pass the ball like that, with the type of players we have, we can put on that kind of display."

The unselfish play worked especially well against Vandy's preferred matchup zone defense, he said.

"We didn't allow them to recover in the matchup zone," Pitino said. "We kept getting easy shots -- wide open ones -- because we never allowed them to match up."

Tony Delk led a balanced Kentucky attack with 22 points. Antoine Walker and Walter McCarty chipped in 17 and 16 points, respectively.

Vandy leading scorer Frank Seckar made 80 percent of his shots for the game. But in a credit to Kentucky's defense, Seckar got off only five shots. He finished with 11 inconsequential points.

Kentucky successfully addressed its rebounding problem. The Cats outrebounded Vandy 47-21. But Pitino did not take a lot of pride in that stat. Vandy, which is hardly imposing inside when healthy, played without forward Malik Evans. He sat out the game because of pain in his foot.

Kentucky made quick work of Vandy. UK obliterated its only deficit -- 2-0 -- with a run of 19 straight points.

"It was a worst-case scenario," Vandy Coach Jan van Breda Kolff said of the early UK run. "I was disappointed in the way we competed. Kentucky scored so often and so easy. . . . We were motivated and thought we could play with them. Then when they made their run, some of our players hung their heads."

The Cats led 63-36 at halftime. And it could have been worse. All 12 of UK's scholarship players played in the first half.

Rebounding, a point of emphasis for weeks, keyed the one-sided half. UK's first three baskets came on offensive put-backs. In all, the Cats had six such baskets in the half. Vandy had none.

Once ahead, the Cats got comfortable. That spelled big-time trouble for outmanned Vandy.

Kentucky made six shots in a row, and 10 of 11 in one stretch. During that time, UK widened a 6-2 lead to 33-11 with 10:41 left. That matched the margin in Vandy's worst loss of the season (77-55 at Florida).

"We had to play a perfect game and have some (individual) career nights to beat them," van Breda Kolff said. "We didn't do either."

The Commodores looked outclassed throughout the half. During the 19-0 run, Vandy went scoreless for more than six minutes.

Highlights of the half included:

Anthony Epps swishing two three-pointers. That matched his season high.

Freshman Ron Mercer looked comfortable in his first game in his hometown. He scored six straight points in another 11-0 Kentucky run that that expanded the lead to 40-11. Mercer's prettiest basket came courtesy of a fast-break touch-pass from Derek Anderson. Mercer finished with 15 points for the game.

Jeff Sheppard made a pretty 5-footer off a lob from Tony Delk.

Vandy twice called timeouts to stop the momentum. Neither worked.

UK called a 20-second timeout with 7:34 left. It came after Vandy went on a 4-0 run -- the only time that happened in the half.

Vandy made a modest rally early in the second half. The Commodores closed a 27-point halftime deficit to 68-47. That prompted a UK timeout with 16:03 left.

Not to worry. An air-ball three-point shot by Drew Maddux deflated the Commodores. UK resumed the slaughter.

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