Cats use blowout first half to coast to victory over Vanderbilt


Sophomore forward PJ Washington celebrates after making a three point shot. University of Kentucky men’s basketball team defeated Mississippi State 76-55 at Rupp Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

A UK men’s basketball team that has already faced a tight race with SEC opponent Vanderbilt came to Vanderbilt for their first conference rematch. A 30-point halftime lead had the game completely out of hand barely after it was started. The Cats ran away with it, 87-52 in Nashville.

The game started close, as Kentucky held only a two-point lead at 12-10 with 13:44 left in the first half. Kentucky then went on a monster 35-5 run that extended into the second half. To open their last matchup, Vanderbilt scored 14 points on the team’s first several possessions.

P.J. Washington continued his powerful stretch of games with his third straight 20-point performance and his second straight 10-rebound performance. He finished the game with 26 points, 12 rebounds and three steals. By halftime, he already had an 18-point, 10-rebound game.

Washington was just one of four Wildcats in double-digit scoring as Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro and Nick Richards all finished above the threshold. Richards was the most efficient of the bunch, scoring 14 points on 4-5 shooting from the floor and 6-10 from the free throw line, including a pair of slams to close the game out.

The Cats also got by almost entirely without the help of broad-shouldered big man Reid Travis. Travis scored only one point on 1-2 free throws and logged one official shot attempt. He finished with three rebounds. At halftime, both Travis and Johnson had contributed no points to UK’s 45-15 blitzing of the Commodores on their home floor.

UK’s stellar defensive campaign continued, holding the home team to only 37 percent shooting on 46 shot attempts. Over half of Vanderbilt’s 17 made shots were threes, as Kentucky wasn’t allowing anything to go in the paint. The Cats also kept the ball out of trouble, turning it over only seven times to Vanderbilt’s 20. At halftime, the Cats only had a single turnover.

This 35-point victory is the largest road win in the Calipari era, besting their previous record of 34 at South Carolina on Feb. 4, 2012. The Wildcats went on to win the national championship that year.

Their next game will be a road matchup against the Florida Gators in Gainesville on Saturday.