The Gallatin News
Overwhelmed by UK, underwhelmed with Vandy
After watching top-ranked Kentucky take Vanderbilt to school at Memorial Gym Saturday night, I came away overwhelmed by Kentucky and underwhelmed by Vanderbilt.
After all, the Commodores were ranked No. 7 in the country in at least one preseason poll. Some thought they would be a Final Four team, based on a senior dominated roster that had depth and players with SEC experience.
Vanderbilt is now 17-8 overall, 6-4 inside the SEC. Good, not great. Certainly not up to expectations.
Great teams do not get shut out for the final 4:08 after taking a lead at home and lose, 69-63.
The most impressive thing about Kentucky is its defense. I would say it is most unusual with a starting lineup of three freshmen and two sophomores to embrace the defensive part of the game as much as Kentucky does.
When it was obvious Vanderbilt was trying to get UK freshman Anthony Davis in early foul trouble by feeding senior Festus Ezeli, Kentucky had more hands in the paint than a kindergarten kid.
Every time Ezeli put the ball on the floor, Kentucky was slapping it away or out of his hands. Davis, was giving up an inch in height and 35 pounds. But he managed to frustrate Ezeli and other Commodores while collecting seven blocked shots.
And how can a senior leader like Jeffery Taylor score two points in the first half? He and junior John Jenkins came in the game as the two top scorers in the SEC. Jenkins left with 15 points, Taylor with 13.
The game showed how dominant Kentucky is, and how average the other SEC teams are.
Kentucky is 25-1, the lone loss coming on a last-second shot at Indiana earlier in the season. Coach John Calipari’s Cats are on a 17-game winning streak going into Thursday’s home game against Ole Miss.
Back to Anthony Davis. It wasn’t that long ago that Davis was 6-3. He is now 6-10 with arms long enough to pick pennies up off the street without bending over.
And Davis has that God-given natural ability to block shots without fouling. His timing is something you can’t coach. Sorry, Cal.
If Davis goes out after one year (revive me if he doesn’t) he will be the first player taken in the NBA draft.
Against Vanderbilt Davis played 39 minutes, scored 15 points, grabbed eight rebounds (four on the offensive boards) and blocked seven shots. He altered a number of other shots during the game.
“He’s just very long,’’ Ezeli said of Davis “In the first half, I think he got the better of me. I was definitely thinking about his shot blocking abilities, so I was trying to maneuver a little bit and I wasn’t really getting my shots. (Davis) is good at what he does.’’
It was obviously a blow to Vanderbilt. They still have trips to Kentucky and Tennessee, an improving team on a three-game winning streak.
There’s still time to freshen up the resume. Before the Kentucky game, ESPN projected Vanderbilt as a 6-seed in the NCAA Tournament. They dropped to a 7-seed this week.
There is a lot of basketball left. Kentucky shows no signs of collapsing. Vanderbilt must write its final chapter on what can still be a successful season.
They don’t need a NCAA Tournament first-round flameout like they have suffered three of the last four years.