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Vanderbilt @ Kentucky: Open Game Thread


This is the official A Sea of Blue open game thread for the Vanderbilt Commodores @ Kentucky Wildcats basketball game at Rupp Arena, Saturday, January 10th @ 2:00 PM.

Particulars of this game are as follows:

This is the first game of the SEC season, and as such, it is huge. We all have heard that the SEC is down this year, and that is supported to some degree by the performance of SEC teams in the out-of-conference portion of the schedule. That means that UK will likely have relatively few opportunities to make a big statement by upsetting top-ranked teams, so we'll have to settle for the second-best thing -- defeating good but unranked teams both at home and away.

Vanderbilt represents such a good but unranked team, and even though the Commodores lost their leading scorer and several other critical players to graduation, they return a solid core of players in Jermaine Beal and A.J. Ogilvy, and have some good young talent to compliment them. The Commodores will be a tough out, and even though we out-athlete them, they are a cohesive team with a high basketball IQ. They are fully capable of beating Kentucky at home, which would represent a mild upset at the moment.

Things Kentucky needs to do well to win:

  1. Live inside. Ogilvy is a solid defender, but he should be no match for the much-improved version of Patrick Patterson we have seen lately. If we can get Ogilvy in foul trouble, this game will be much easier.
  2. Defend the three. Vanderbilt can really shoot the ball from the perimeter.
  3. Deny the wing pass. Ogilvy is talented enough to get Patterson in foul trouble if he gets the ball deep in the post, and he is a very effective post scorer.
    Attack the rim. We are quicker and more athletic than Vandy, and we need to get to the line as much as possible.
  4. Take care of the ball. No elucidation required.

Things that will make it hard for Kentucky to win:

  1. Allow Vanderbilt to get off to a fast start. We have struggled every time we get behind big early.
  2. Live turnovers. Live turnovers are deadly. See here for more.
  3. Jacking up three pointers. Vanderbilt will likely tempt us to do that. We much resist with patience.
  4. Allow Beal lane penetration. Vanderbilt sets the standard for drive and kick to open shooters, and teams that have done that well have beaten Kentucky all year.
  5. Lose the rebounding battle. Kentucky has been tough on the boards all year, and today is not the time to stop.

Unlike Louisville, Vanderbilt does not have an athletic advantage on us at any position other than point guard, and then only while Michael Porter is in. UK is longer, taller, and more talented than the 'Dores, although not by a wide margin. If the Wildcats can rachet up the intensity on defense early, it will auger very much to their advantage. There is also the ugly beat-down Vandy gave UK last year to consider at Memorial Gym. The Wildcat players have not forgotten that embarassing episode, and it will no doubt serve as motivation for this game.

This is a big game. Win this, and UK can start building a case for inclusion in the top 25. This game won't get us there, but it does represent the kind of quality conference win that UK will need a lot of to get a respectable seed in March.

Go, 'Cats!