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Kentucky at Vanderbilt -- Open Game Thread

This is the official Open Game Thread for Kentucky at Vanderbilt.

This may well be the defining game of the Wildcat's season this year.  I know it seems strange to say since Kentucky has now won five games in a row, but Vanderbilt in Memorial Gym has been a very tough nut for us to crack for quite some time now.

Somehow, I can never forget that day back in 2003 when the Suffocats rose like the Phoenix from a slow start and were born in the ashes of Memorial.  Already, Vanderbilt has suffered a loss at the hands of the Wildcats in a Rupp barn-burner, but they are surely thinking revenge now.  Vanderbilt is a talented and capable team who has successfully handled every team that has dared show itself in Nashville this year.

I think there is a lot of trepidation in the Big Blue Nation about this game.  Vandy is ranked, and we have seen them break the Cats' heart four times out of the last five games.  The Commodores are not only tough at home, but they are returning from a successful if eventful road trip, and Shan Foster is in the midst of a shooting slump.  Many of us legitimately fear that the slump will end against the Cats, and the result would be more questions about the future of this team vis-a-vis the NCAA tournament.

Myself, I feel strangely confident about this game.  We match up very well with Vanderbilt, and now that the Cats are relatively healthy with even the possibility of Jodie Meeks seeing some action, I feel good about our chances to go in and take this game from the 'Dores.  This Kentucky team has found a way to completely reverse the penchant for losing games that had me on the edge of despair less than a month ago.  That new tendency has given me confidence that they will give themselves a shot at this game, and lately, they have been truly impressive in the clutch.  That confidence combined with what could be a bit of excessive zeal on the part of the Commodores make me think we can get this W.

Keys to the game:

  1. Ballhandling -- Avoid a big Vandy margin, and we'll be OK
  2. Fouls -- Patterson must continue to avoid them.
  3. in-your-face defense -- Kentucky must raise it's defensive intensity to its highest level.
  4. Pace --  Pace is critical to defeating Vandy.  We must keep it low.
  5. Clutch play -- This game is likely to come down to one or two possessions.  UK must be on the long end of those.

Six in a row?  Can it possibly happen to this resurgent Kentucky team?  If it does, the media murmur we have heard lately will likely become a serious buzz, and we will reach a changeover in probability from "possible" to "somewhat likely" with respect to the NCAA tournament.  I won't be able to live blog tonight, but be sure to post your comments below.