Tuesday night’s matchup between Kentucky and Vanderbilt will be even more special for three Wildcats players.
Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins, and Mychal Mulder will play their last game in Rupp Arena donning a Wildcats uniform. The three seniors will be honored before the game for their contributions to the Kentucky basketball program.
As for the game, the Wildcats come in off of a huge 76-66 victory over the Florida Gators, pushing Kentucky into the driver’s seat for the SEC regular season championship and top seed in the upcoming conference tournament.
The Wildcats have won six straight and hope to finish the season on a high note to bring a wave of momentum into postseason play. Kentucky owns the all-time series between the two squads 142-47.
As for the Commodores, while being on the outside looking in when it comes to the NCAA Tournament, they have shown a propensity to being a dangerous threat against quality teams this season.
Their resume boasts solid wins at Tennessee, at Arkansas, and at Florida, with home victories over South Carolina and Iowa State (third place in the Big 12 with victories over Kansas and Baylor).
That being said, Vanderbilt shouldn’t be taken lightly as they have shown the ability to play at their best against high-level competition. With the only games remaining being Kentucky and Florida, Bryce Drew’s squad would surely love to pick up two huge victories to go into the conference tournament.
The first UK-Vandy matchup of the season was a close one, with the Wildcats holding off the Commodores in Memorial by a score of 87-81. Kentucky’s backcourt had a strong game offensively, with the backcourt trio of De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, and Isaiah Briscoe scoring 63 of Kentucky’s 87 points. The Wildcats shot nearly 57 percent from inside the three-point line that game, but went only 1-9 from beyond the arc.
The Commodores had four players in double figures scoring, so one would believe Kentucky would love to clamp down defensively. Fouls were also a major factor in that game, with Vanderbilt shooting 32 free throws and Kentucky shooting 24.
We will still look to monitor Fox’s injury going into Tuesday’s matchup. He played very well in the team’s first meeting (24 pts, 5 rebs, 2 asts on 11/17 shooting) so the Wildcats would surely love to have him back in the mix although the coaching staff would much rather him be at 100 percent going into conference and NCAA tournament play.
I have a feeling Vandy will step up and play well, just as they have several times in big games this season. However, I believe the Wildcats will come away with a Senior Day victory. Kentucky 84 Vanderbilt 72.
Here is everything you’ll need to watch and follow this game:
Vanderbilt Commodores (16-13, 9-7 in SEC) at Kentucky Wildcats (24-5, 14-2 in SEC)
When: Feb. 28
Game Time: 9 p.m. EST
Location: Rupp Arena
Live Online Stream: Watch ESPN
Radio: UK Radio Network with Tom Leach and Mike Pratt
Odds: Kentucky opened as a 12.5-point home favorite over Vanderbilt. KenPom projected the Cats to be a 13-point favorite.
Score Prediction: KenPom projects a 83-70 win by Kentucky and gives the Cats an 88-percent chance of winning.