UK women fall to Vandy

Vanderbilt was too good too many times for Kentucky to get its upset on Sunday.

Three times in the second half in Memorial Coliseum, the Cats tied the game with the No. 20 Commodores and three times Vanderbilt found an answer.

In the end, the depleted Cats had no surges left in them and fell to Vanderbilt for the 13th straight time, 72-62.

"We tried awfully hard to make some plays to get back in it and hung with them and kept answering, but that's what's so good about Vanderbilt," UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "They made big plays every time they needed to."

UK's last big charge came via a 15-6 run in the middle of the second half. Victoria Dunlap made a shot in the lane to tie it 46-46 with 8:30 remaining.

The Cats felt like they were just one big shot, one big possession away from surging ahead with 6,051 screaming fans behind them.

"If we had that lead, I'm sure we could have pulled away, we wouldn't be thinking about being tired," guard Amani Franklin said, "but when you're down and frustrated, you get unfocused. We can't have that."

Fatigue and Vanderbilt's defense became UK's undoing.

After Kentucky tied it, the Commodores used a 14-3 run capped by a Merideth Marsh three-pointer to grab a 60-49 lead. In that span, UK missed seven straight shots and turned the ball over twice.

"We decided at that point we weren't going to let them keep that momentum," said Vandy's Christina Wirth, who had a game-high 20 points and seven rebounds. "At some point you make a decision that when they get momentum you stop that and you grab your own."

The Commodores held the Cats just shy of seven minutes without a field goal during their big second-half run.

"We had composure and stuck together," Wirth said. "We just decided we're going to outwork them, we're going to make those big plays, especially on defense."

When Franklin, who finished with 14 points, scored five in a row to cut the Vandy lead to six, Wirth responded with her own five-point spree to keep extending the lead.

"She just made big shot after big shot," Mitchell said of Wirth, one of four Vandy players in double figures.

Marsh, a former Louisville Christian star, had 15 points. Hannah Tuomi added 13 points and six boards inside.

As a team, Vanderbilt (18-6, 7-2 Southeastern Conference) was impressive on offense, making 64.1 percent of its shots overall and 70.6 percent in the second half. The Commodores, who turned the ball over 23 times, missed just five shots in the second half.

"Once we wore them down a bit by pushing it every possession we could, things opened up and got easier for us," Vandy Coach Melanie Balcomb said.

Mitchell denied that his team ran out of gas.

"They know where we are with our rotations and we have kids that are going to have to play a bunch of minutes, that's the reality of it," Mitchell said. "Really when the game was being decided, Vanderbilt had their same players on the floor, too."

But it's a long SEC season and UK (13-11, 3-6) has mostly been using the same six players.

Even UK's players conceded that the big runs they made took some of the energy out of them.

"I'm pretty tired," said Dunlap, who had 17 points and nine rebounds while playing 40 minutes. "But you try to play as many minutes as you can and not think about being tired."

Dunlap had little help in the post with front-court mate Eleia Roddy in foul trouble nearly the entire game. She played just 12 minutes and had five points and no rebounds.

The Cats' second-leading scorer and rebounder was sent to the bench with her second foul just two minutes into the game.

In Roddy's absence, senior Jenné Jackson came off the bench to lead UK at the break with six points and two rebounds. The ex-North Hardin star's first-half points tied her season high, but she never got in the game in the second half.

Roddy picked up her third and fourth fouls a little more than three minutes into the second half.

"It was difficult for her to get in a rhythm," Mitchell said. "Once she got that fourth foul .... she was out of sorts then."