Date story published: Wednesday, February 13, 2008
NASHVILLE -- Kentucky mimicked a night of political routs. Alas, the Cats played the role of Hillary Clinton buried by Barack Obama in the Virginia, Maryland and District of Columbia primaries.
As the politicians counted votes, Vanderbilt laid a 93-52 landslide on Kentucky on Tuesday night.
Each side struggled to comprehend a beating that gushed historical firsts: UK's most-lopsided Southeastern Conference defeat. Ever. Vandy's most lopsided victory in the series. UK Coach Billy Gillipsie's most lopsided defeat as a head coach (previous worst a 75-40 Texas A&M loss to Texas in 2004-05).
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"I just couldn't believe it," UK guard Ramel Bradley said.
Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings acknowledged his surprise with a game that, like the elections, could have been called early, leaving plenty of time to analyze Kentucky's most crushing defeat since the 150-95 debacle at Kansas on Dec. 9, 1989, in Rick Pitino's first season as coach.
"I didn't think we could be ahead of somebody 41-11 if (the Commodores) played us coaches," he said.
Little, if anything, went right for UK, which saw its season-best five-game winning streak not only snapped, but shattered into tiny, barely distinguishable fragments of competent play.
"They totally stomped us in the ground," UK freshman Patrick Patterson said of the fifth-worst loss in the program's history. "They played like men. We played like boys."
The Cats fell to 12-10 overall and 6-3 in the SEC. Bradley, who scored 18 of his points after Vandy's lead reached its zenith at 43 points, led the Cats with 21 points.
Vandy, which won its 15th straight at home, improved to 21-4 overall and 6-4 in the SEC. Shan Foster and A.J. Ogilvy led a balanced Vandy attack with 20 and 19 points, respectively. Kentuckian Ross Neltner, who had two points and seven turnovers in Lexington last month, chipped in with 15 points and eight rebounds.
"I think we took them by surprise with our effort," said Neltner, who noted UK's double-overtime victory last month as the source of Vandy's energy. "I think they overwhelmed us with their 'physicality' and effort a few weeks ago. We didn't want that to happen again."
The first half made a mockery of Kentucky's recent talk of great practices and reliably competitive zeal.
The 41-11 halftime deficit represented the fewest points Kentucky had scored in half in the shot-clock era. The last time a UK team scored so infrequently came in a slow-down game at Cincinnati in which Kentucky led 11-7 at halftime on Dec. 20, 1983.
UK's futility started with Patterson. He had more fouls (three) than points (one) or rebounds (none) in the first half. He did not score until he hit a free throw with 1:15 left. The shot set the halftime score.
Vandy shredded Kentucky's defense, which came into the game ranked third in points allowed (66.5 ppg) and opponents' shooting accuracy (41 percent) in league play.
The Commodores made 15 of 26 shots (57.7 percent) in the first half and committed one turnover. That came with less than 10 minutes left before the break, when Ogilvy passed to a spot Foster had vacated.
Vandy outscored UK in the lane 16-4 in the first half and piled up a 34-28 advantage in points in the paint. That was significant because the Cats had outscored 17 of their previous 21 opponents in the paint. After being outrebounded 45-23 in Lexington, Vandy won the boards 35-30.
Kentucky had trouble scoring from outside the lane area, too. In making only three baskets (which matched the famous 3-for-33 second-half shooting against Georgetown in the 1984 Final Four), the Cats shot with 20 percent accuracy (3-for-15) in the first half. They finished with a season-low 32.7-percent accuracy.
When Joe Crawford spun into the lane to make a heavily contested shot with 2:21 left, it marked Kentucky's second basket since 18:18 (the time, not the year, although it seemed like the year).
Vandy students derisively applauded when Crawford made two free throws at the 4:32 mark. Those shots reduced Vandy's lead to 32-8.
Kentucky littered the half with embarrassing plays. Bradley threw a lob for Patterson that banged off the backboard. But the nadir came with 4:07 left when Derrick Jasper couldn't inbound the ball and was called for a five-second violation. None of his teammates (Bradley, Crawford, Jared Carter and Perry Stevenson) had stayed near enough to take the inbounds.
If anything, the second half continued the downward spiral.
Harris charged on UK's first possession.
After Patterson finally scored his first basket (at the 19:04 mark), Vandy either cut backdoor or boldly drove for layups. A Foster three-pointer stretched the lead to 52-14.
"Our defense was horrible," Patterson said.
When Neltner made a layup to put Vandy ahead 47-14, the students chanted "Neltner's winning, Neltner's winning." They had a point. At that stage, he had 15 points to Kentucky's 14.
After Crawford charged about 90 seconds later, Gillispie refused to give the ball to the referee. The UK coach wanted to complain. Finally the referee hit Gillispie with his fourth technical foul of the season.
But afterward, the UK coach flashed a brave smile as he put the loss in perspective.
"We just got our tail kicked," he said. "It's one loss, and we just got our tail kicked severely. That's all there is to it.
"Congratulations to Vanderbilit. They played fantastic."