The Kentucky Wildcats did their very best to let Vanderbilt off the hook on Wednesday night, holding on for an 82-78 win at Nashville’s Memorial Gym.
The Wildcats led by 17 points in the opening half only to watch Vanderbilt rally to make things interesting.
Kentucky jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead as the Commodores had more turnovers than points midway through the first half as the Wildcat took a 42-30 lead into the locker room.
Vanderbilt’s Scotty Pippen Jr., the SEC’s second leading scorer, was held scoreless in the opening half but led a stunning comeback as the Commodores went on 13-4 run to open the second frame and tied the game at 46-all at the 13:56 make on a made free throw as Kentucky was called for a technical foul for having six players on the court.
Pippen, who finished with 21 points, hit two free throws to cut the UK lead to 76-75 with 26.5 second remaining before Toppin connected on two free throws of his own to push the lead back to 78-75. After a Vanderbilt missed three-point attempt, BJ Boston made a pair at the charity stripe to seal the win.
Kentucky was led by Davion Mintz, who had a team-high 18 points and Jacob Toppin, who came off the bench to score 16 points. Isaiah Jackson also added 15 points and nine rebounds.
The Wildcats, 7-13 (6-7) have four regular season games remaining with a road trip to No. 19th-ranked Tennessee on Saturday, followed by home games against Texas A&M and Florida. Kentucky closes out the year at Mississippi before heading to the SEC Tournament on March 10-14 in Nashville.
Several players to choose from in this one, including Mintz, Toppin and even Devin Askew who put forth a great defensive effort in the first half on Pippen. However, Isaiah Jackson was simply spectacular in the opening half with 15 points and seven rebounds as his draft stock continues to soar.
The downside is that the 6-foot-10 post player is prone to foul trouble, picking up his fourth foul at the 12:00 mark and ultimately fouling out when he was needed desperately down the stretch. Jackson is simply a game-changer with his length and athleticism on the defensive end as he leads the league in blocked shots.
Of course, Mintz continues to hit “daggers” from three-point range and Olivier Sarr also got going in the second half, finishing with 10 points. BJ Boston also caught fire early, scoring eight points (two three pointers and dunk) in the first six minutes to push the Cats to a 15-5 lead to set the stage for a dominant first half. Boston finished with 12 points on 4-of-14 shooting.