By Cody Porter | email@example.com
With nearly forty seconds remaining, the No. 1 Cats held a five-point lead on Vanderbilt. As the Commodores attempted to pressure senior Darius Miller into a turnover, the senior slipped through two trapping players and found sophomore forward Terrence Jones wide-open under the basket for a slam to secure not only the 83-74 win, but the Cats’ 45th SEC regular-season title as well.
Miller had yet to score any points until he sparked an 11-2 run by the Cats with 9:59 remaining in the second half. During the course of that run, the senior guard scores seven of his nine points.
UK head coach John Calipari said that he was upset with Miller for passing up two shots in particular during the first half. At halftime Miller was 0-5, including three missed three-pointers. His only stats were an assist and a rebound.
“I said that’s the old you. You got to keep shooting. You can’t do that to your team, ” Calipari said about Miller.
Entering halftime, Miller had combined with sophomore Doron Lamb to go 1-9 shooting.
Just minutes into the second half, Lamb connected on the Cats’ first three pointer of the game after going 0-8 in the first half.
Preceding Lamb’s three, National Player of the Year candidate Anthony Davis returned the Cats to the lead with a jumper and a vicious put-back dunk.
Davis scored a career-high 28 points (11 rebounds and six blocks) and on an assortment of shots: dunks, layups and mid-range jumpers. Davis missed only a single shot, going 10-11 from the field.
“I’ve been holding him back,” Calipari jokingly said following the game. “I’m trying to get him to stay in school another year.”
Said Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli, “He did whatever he wanted to do. I didn’t offer much of a resistance and he played very well today. He did a good job protecting the basket and blocking shots. He did a good job of contesting shots.”
Davis and freshman teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were the Cats’ biggest producers in the first half.
Kidd-Gilchrist’s point total of eight all came within the first twenty minutes of play to combine with 15 by Davis for 23 of UK’s 36 points at the half. He also contributed eight rebounds and three assists to the Cats effort.
“I thought Michael (Kidd)-Gilchrist fought like crazy,” Calipari said.
During postgame interviews, Kidd-Gilchrist said that his “little brother,” Anthony Davis, is the best player in the country and compared him to a current NBA superstar.
“Ant is like, let me see who to compare him to; LeBron (James),” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “On defense and offense, he’s just a monster.”
Freshman guard Marquise Teague’s three turnovers sparked a couple of Calipari timeouts only minutes after the game tipped off.
He would only add one more turnover for the remainder of the game. His matchup against Vanderbilt guard Brad Tinsley could’ve been considered a mismatch with the way Teague was able to blow past for an easy lay-in.
Teague would finish the game with 16 points, four rebounds and six assists.
Aiding in the run sparked by Miller in the second half was Terrence Jones. Jones, who didn’t see any court action in the final five minutes of the first half, was initially pulled from the game by Calipari a little under two minutes into action after committing an early foul.
Following the game Calipari said, “When I talked to them before they went on the court, I didn’t like the stare I got, from two or three of the guys, so at the beginning of the game I knew what was happening.”
Jones would go add two free throws and a dunk in the final minutes to finish the game with 12 points and six rebounds.
The No. 1 Cats (28-1, 14-0 SEC) next challenge is a senior day matchup with the Georgia Bulldogs (12-15, 3-10 SEC) on Thursday, March 1. UK’s first encounter with the Bulldogs was in Athens and the Cats prevailed 57-44.