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VANDY DEFENSE BUZZES TO MAKE IT THREE IN A ROW OVER UK

Date story published: Sunday, January 21, 2007

On the plus side, Kentucky strength coach Scott Holsopple gained another game video for use as a motivational aide.

Holsopple tried to spur the UK players earlier this week by showing them tape of Vanderbilt winning here last season, a game that enabled the Commodores to lose their label as the only Southeastern Conference team not to win a regular-season game in Rupp Arena.So what happened yesterday? Vandy took the initiative from the start, played the aggressor throughout and then outperformed No. 25 Kentucky down the stretch to win 72-67.

UK, which had an 11-game winning streak snapped, led for only three minutes and got pushed around for 40.

Vandy, which notched its fourth victory in five tries against a ranked team, clearly outdefended what had been the league's best defensive team.

Not since Memphis in Maui had a UK opponent made better than 43.9 percent of its shots. But Vandy hit half its 48 shots, including 11 three-pointers (which matched a season-high for a UK opponent) and a blistering 59.1 percent in the second half.

If Vandy didn't swish three-pointers, it drove with confidence to the basket.

"I'm really, really disappointed we were never there at the basket to take a charge or stop easy baskets," UK Coach Tubby Smith said. "A team shoots 59 percent by shooting layups. That's what killed us. No rotation."

By contrast, Vandy's defense was everywhere. The Commodores limited UK's leading scorer, center Randolph Morris, to two shots in the second half and 11 points for the game. On the perimeter, the sizzling Joe Crawford made four of 17 shots, and Ramel Bradley missed all five of his three-point attempts, thus failing to make a trey for the first time since the Indiana game on Dec. 9.

"The only way to win on the road is to guard the snot out of people," said Vandy Coach Kevin Stallings, who had credited snotty defense as a key in the Commodores' home victory over Alabama earlier in the week. "You've got to guard and dig and be tough, and we didn't do that in our first two road games. I thought we did today."

Morris, who had his lowest scoring total since getting two points at Louisville on Dec. 16, noted a difference in how Vandy double-teamed the low post.

"Most teams allow the ball in and then trap," he said. "They just wanted to limit the touches altogether."

Usually, Kentuckian Ross Neltner fronted Morris while another Vandy player stuck close behind the UK center.

Kentucky, which fell to 15-4 overall and 4-1 in the SEC, repeatedly found itself holding the ball with the shot clock ticking down to desperation time. The Cats were guilty of three 35-second shot-clock violations. On six other occasions, a UK player fired up a shot simply to beat the shot clock.

"That's one of the things they do extremely well: get up in you and force you to put the ball on the floor, something we were trying to do to them," Smith said. "We have to use that against them by making harder cuts and using screens properly or making the extra pass instead of dribbling the ball. You're easier to guard when you're dribbling the ball."

Kentucky spoke of reverting to the dribble-dribble-dribble that stalled its offense earlier in the season.

"Today a lot of things happened off the dribble," Bradley said. "We kind of went back to the things that weren't helping us win games."

Still, Vandy, which improved to 13-6 overall and 3-2 in the SEC, did not bury Kentucky. Stallings called it "a game of two pretty evenly matched teams because neither team was able to exert any significant control. ...

"It became a game condensed into three minutes and 56 seconds."

Actually, UK took its last lead with 2:58 left, when Bradley hit a leaner in the lane to beat the shot clock. That put the Cats ahead 59-58.

Shan Foster, who had 16 points, gave Vandy the lead back when he made a jumper over Sheray Thomas.

On UK's next possession, Foster stole Bradley's pass and fed Derrick Byars (23 points) for a layup. Those baskets began a 9-0 run that put the Commodores ahead 67-59 with 47 seconds left.

Dan Cage, who scored all 10 of his points in the second half, added the crunching basket. After UK failed to answer Byars' transition layup, he fired up a three-pointer from the left corner off the fast break.

For some players, it would be an oh-no ... oh-yes moment. But not for Cage.

"When Dan Cage shoots it and if he's open, there's not one ounce in my entire body that says no," Stallings said. "Every time he shoots it and he's open, I'm saying, oh yes."

That marked the second straight year a Vandy player hit a debatable shot in transition to seal a victory at Kentucky. Byars hit a mid-range pull-up shot on the break last season.

You could look it up on a Holsopple video.

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