Kentucky - Vanderbilt gave Calipari the opportunity to play deep into his bench

Doug Pensinger

Vanderbilt is down to seven scholarship players as most know by now. There are two walk-ons on the Commodore team. That should remind everyone of last year’s Kentucky squad. No one gave Kentucky a break, relishing one of those rare seasons when the Wildcats were down. I think Cal took it easy on Kevin Stallings.

Stallings played seven, but Cal played ten. A lot of UK fans have been complaining that the Cats should've won by more than they did. The thing is, you see, Kentucky historically has a hard time in Nashville. The floor and the crowd have a lot to do with that.

Saturday, it was more floor than the crowd because the Big Blue Nation represented. Behind one backboard (banking board according to what's his name [Joe Dean, Jr]), it was a Sea of Blue. You had to look hard to find black or gold. Saturday was Vandy's superbowl. They gave it their all, but didn't have enough horsepower. Kentucky physically beat them down. Stallings admitted it in his press conference.

The 71-62 score was closer than the physical reality of the game. The Cats had 18 offensive rebounds to the Commies 5.  Kentucky had 15 second chance scores compared to Vandy's 5, and Kentucky's bench outscored the Commodore bench by 19-2.

Kentucky's weakness was the transition game where Vandy was able to run the floor and score. Vandy scored 30 of their 62 points in the paint, 10 coming off of fast breaks,  and shot 50% for the game. While Kentucky's defense was physical, they gave up a lot of points off of Vandy cuts and backdoors. Many of those points came at the expense of the five who came off the Kentucky bench.

While the nit pickers can complain all they want, take a look at Kentucky's margin of victory from Gillespie's last season through Saturday and tell me that we should've beaten Vandy by 20.

2014 - W - 9

2013 - W - 2

2012 - W - 6

2011 - L - (4)

2010 - W - 2

2009 - L - (13)

The last time the Cats blew out the Commodores in Nashville was the 74-52 win in 2003.

When your bench plays 25% of the available minutes, you know the outcome of the game beforehand. Aside from the half court and transition defensive woes, Kentucky forced 16 turovers and had 7 steals.

At the end of the game, I thought Calipari had kept the game under control, but out of reach. Kentucky will need its bench come tournament time and yesterday gave the bench some game experience.  Playing Willis, Johnson and Polson will pay dividends later on. Sixth man, Alex Poythress, played 19 minutes and was steady and has seemed to have found his game.  Hawkins had problems with his defense and only played 5 minutes, but we'll see more of him in future games.

Considering that Randle (sigh) again suffered from cramping and Young couldn't throw a rock in the ocean, Willie took up the slack and the twins get better with each passing game.

The media has called this latest victory "a flawed win." Every game we play in Memorial Gym is "flawed" with few exceptions. Kentucky goes to Arkansas next and you should expect another "flawed" game, win or lose. That's just the way life is when you go on the road in any conference, especially with the youngest team in the land.

Kentucky should move up a notch or two in the polls.

Just for what it's worth, I agree with Seth Davis that Syracuse is probably the best team in the nation right now after taking UNC apart. Clemson showed Duke doesn't like to play defense. When was the last time UNC began conference play at 0-3? And, when was the last time Duke began conference play at 1-2?

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