An old-fashioned SEC slugfest broke out at Rupp Arena on Wednesday night as No. 5th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats were the last man standing in a 77-70 win over Vanderbilt.
One of the most physical games of the season resulted in numerous hard fouls and technical for both coaches - UK’s John Calipari and Vanderbilt’s Jerry Stackhouse - with 44 total fouls called, including four video reviews.
This was not one for the beauty pageants.
Kentucky struggled early from the field, going 5-for-14 to allow Vanderbilt to go on a 9-0 run to take an 18-15 lead just under the 10-minute mark. That’s when Kellan Grady and the Wildcats caught fire with its own 10-0 run that included a Grady three, two buckets from TyTy Washington, including a traditional three-point play, and a basket by Keion Brooks to give the Cats a 28-18 lead before eventually settling on a 10-point lead at halftime.
Despite trailing by as many as 16 points, Vanderbilt stormed back with a 12-3 run over the first four minutes of the second half to cut the Kentucky lead to one (44-43) with 11:53 remaining.
However, the Wildcats responded with a three-pointer from Davion Mintz and pulled ahead 54-46 after Brooks nailed a deep jumper to beat the shot clock heading into a TV timeout at the 11:04 mark.
A Vanderbilt free throw at the 9:27 mark pulled the Commodores within three (56-53) but a bucket by Brooks and a three ball by Mintz pushed the lead back to 62-55 as the Wildcats held on for the win.
Mintz led the Wildcats with a career-high 21 points while Brooks had 20 to finish with back-to-back 20 point games. Oscar Tshiebwe finished with 11 points and 17 rebounds, while Grady added 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting from the three-point arc.
As starting guards Sahvir Wheeler and TyTy Washington struggled offensively, Mintz came off the bench to provide some fireworks, scoring 21 points and making big plays to lead the Wildcats to victory.
Once again, Mintz proved himself as a deadly shooter from three-point range after returning this year to become the first player in the John Calipari era at Kentucky to return to school after leading the team in scoring the year before.
Kellan Grady also came up big for the Cats, going 4-for-8 from three-point range, to continue his steady play. Mintz and Grady are both seasoned veterans, playing their fifth year of college basketball as graduate transfer students and that experience had paid off big as Grady currently leads the SEC in three-point shooting percentage (43.9%) and Mintz is arguably the best sixth-man in the SEC this season as he averages 8.1 point per game.
The Wildcats now improve to 18-4 (7-2) at the midway point of the conference and return to action on Saturday night on the road at Alabama.
Highlights from our 12th straight win over Vandy pic.twitter.com/qxf0BzTnbl— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) February 3, 2022