UK Men's Basketball

Kentucky hits another roadblock, loses 81-77 at Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt's Jeffery Taylor, right, blocked the shot of Kentucky's Brandon Knight in the second half.
Vanderbilt's Jeffery Taylor, right, blocked the shot of Kentucky's Brandon Knight in the second half.

NASHVILLE — Vanderbilt shooting — and making — guard John Jenkins kept a cell phone tight to his right ear as he did the extra interviews that come with beating Kentucky on national television. All the while, he kept his left hand on his right shoulder.

"Hurting real bad," he said as he waited for the next interview to begin. "I need to take something to kick this pain out."

Anyone within earshot had to wonder what Jenkins could do if he hadn't sprained his right (shooting) shoulder the week before. Despite the pain, he poured in a career-high 32 points in Vandy's 81-77 victory over Kentucky on Saturday.

"It was magical," Jenkins said of a performance in which he equaled a career-high of six three-pointers.

For Kentucky, it was magical only in the sense of yet another possible victory that — poof! — disappeared in the final minutes of a possession-by-possession game.

Tied at 66 after 35 minutes in which neither team even sniffed a double-digit lead, Kentucky came up empty on four of the next five trips down the court, including three turnovers.

UK Coach John Calipari downplayed the importance of the turnovers (the Cats had only eight total), but Terrence Jones saw them as decisive.

"It just came down to us having (three) turnovers and they didn't have any in the last five minutes," said Jones, who had a part in two of the giveaways. "That's what pretty much lost it for us."

What won it for Vandy was Jenkins. His open three-pointer from near the right corner broke the 66-66 tie.

"When we're saying, don't leave him," Calipari said. "I told them at the end, 'Let's play like a box-and-one like we did against the kid from Notre Dame (Ben Hansbrough).' "

Kentucky shut down Hansbrough. Jenkins shot down the Cats, which Calipari acknowledged with a tap on the arm as the UK coach walked down a hallway on the way out of Memorial Gym.

Jenkins, who earlier this season made six treys against South Carolina, said DeAndre Liggins closed on the shot with his hands down. "As a shooter, you've got to shoot," he said.

After Liggins and Josh Harrellson miscommunicated on a pass, Jenkins made it a two-possession game. He faked left, then drove by Brandon Knight, who got a long turn guarding Jenkins because of Liggins' foul trouble.

Harrellson was all over Jenkins, yet he scooped a shot under the UK center and into the basket to make it 71-66 with 3:47 left.

"It bounced around the rim a couple times," Harrellson said. "I thought it was going to come out, but it rolled in. ... He had a career night."

Kentucky battled. Jones and Knight hit threes to account for two of the three times UK made it a one-possession game in the final 78 seconds.

But Vandy, which leads the Southeastern Conference in free-throw accuracy (77.1 percent in league games) made six of six attempts in the final 54.1 seconds to hold off Kentucky.

"I told Coach (Kevin Stallings), this must be a dream or something because this can't be real," Jenkins said. "Being from here, you see a lot of great games against Kentucky, and just to be a part of that legacy now is just something special."

Vanderbilt, which won a second game in a 42-hour span, improved to 18-6 overall and 6-4 in the SEC.

Kentucky, which lost a fifth SEC road game for only the second time since the league expanded into divisions in 1991-92, fell to 17-7 overall and 5-5 in the league.

For the fourth time in six SEC road games, Kentucky trailed at halftime.

UK gained the initiative early. The Cats made their first two shots, held Vandy without a free throw for almost the first 10 minutes and led by as much as eight.

Three-pointers from unlikely sources helped Vandy rally.

Steve Tchiengang, who had made only two of 10 three-point attempts against SEC teams this season, hit a pair. Freshman Kyle Fuller, who had made only two of 17 three-point shots this season, made one.

Vandy took its first lead with 5:44 left in the first half. Ten seconds later, Liggins got hit with a technical. After hitting a banker, he appeared to gesture toward Stallings. Whatever happened, the technical sent Liggins to the bench with his second foul.

When asked how Liggins' foul trouble contributed to his big game, Jenkins said, "A lot. A lot. I didn't expect to do this much offensively. I had a great defender on me."

Jenkins, a sophomore from Gallatin, Tenn., played 40 minutes, marking the fourth time he'd played that much or more counting overtimes.

"At one point, (basketball staffer Dan) Muller told me he'd been in a long time and we needed to get him out," Stallings said. "I told him we'll get him out tomorrow."

Sore shoulder and all, Jenkins said he planned to be back in Memorial Gym on Saturday night to get in some shooting.

"I'm never satisfied," he said. "I could have 60 (points). I'd still be back in the gym."

Jenkins saw a flaw that needed work.

"I missed one free throw," he said of making four of five, which made him 63-for-68 in SEC play. "I have to stop missing free throws. It's supposed to be automatic."

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