I'll be the first to admit that I thought this game would be a close one.
Vanderbilt has been playing much better as of late with the return of Luke Kornet and I feared that the weather may deter some fans from making the trip to Rupp. However, the fans showed up and filled Rupp as always and Kentucky put on one of their best performances of the season.
The Cats went on an early run to take a double-digit lead and the game was never really in doubt again as they picked up their 15th win of the season.
Good: Consistency from Starters
After Kentucky's impressive road win at Arkansas on Thursday it was clear that the starting lineup of Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray, Isaiah Briscoe, Derek Willis, and Alex Poythress was the lineup the Cats would use going forward. The only question was if this lineup could consistently produce high-level performances? These five answered with a definitive "yes," combining for 68 of the Cats 76 points.
Murray (18) and Ulis (21) had their usual games leading the team in scoring and controlling the game from buzzer to buzzer. Isaiah Briscoe had a solid game with six points, six rebounds, and four assists while being a lockdown defender on the perimeter, helping to contain the great three point shooters for Vandy.
Alex Poythress set the tone scoring early and often finishing with 16 points and giving Kentucky the post presence that they've been looking for all season.
Last but certainly not least, Derek Willis was outstanding again. He struggled from the field shooting just 2-of-8 for seven points. However, he showed confidence not hesitating on open looks and playing solid on the defensive end while also grabbing nine rebounds.
The Cats played well together in this game as well and it showed by their 55% shooting from the field.
Bad: Lack of Bench Production
Let me start off by saying Marcus Lee played decently with six points and five rebounds coming off the bench. Only three other players saw any time off the bench for the Cats; Skal Labissiere, Charles Matthews, and E.J. Floreal.
After Skal's excellent performance at Arkansas, he would see very limited minutes in this game, picking up only two fouls. Coach Cal said in his postgame interview that it was his decision, he didn't like the matchups that Vandy posed for Skal.
Charles Matthews had two points and two rebounds in the game although he played good defense in the game as well. E.J. came in late in the game and provided no stats. In this game, the starters were so good that the bench play can be overlooked.
However if the starters have an off night, the Cats will need much more production from these guys and others coming off the bench.
Ugly: Foul Differential
Kentucky committed 19 fouls in this game compared to just ten fouls committed by Vandy. Lack of attacking by Kentucky? Inability to guard without fouling? Bad officiating? Whatever you feel caused this is irrelevant. The fact is that Kentucky can't have this much of a differential on a regular basis.
This led to Vandy shooting 25 free throws, 20 of which they made, while Kentucky shot just six free throws the entire game making four. A 16 point difference at the free throw line will get a team beat many times, luckily for Kentucky, it didn't make that type of difference in this game.
Go Big Blue!