How the Cats survived without Vanderbilt


Kentucky sophomore forward Sacha Killeya-Jones shoots a free throw during the game against Georgia in the SEC tournament quarterfinals on Friday, March 9, 2018, in St. Louis, Missouri. Kentucky won 62-49. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

In their first SEC Tournament game of the year, the Cats had to start their trail to a 32nd SEC Championship without hustling sixth man Jarred Vanderbilt.

Due to a leg injury, he sat out of UK’s quarterfinal win against Georgia on Friday. This didn’t hurt the Cats too bad, as they won the game 62-49. They’ll move on to face Alabama on Saturday, a game Vanderbilt will also sit out of.

RECAP: UK advances past Georgia, 62-49

“Jarred, what I saw today, will not play tomorrow. He’s still limping,” head coach John Calipari said. “I told him, as soon as you can jump up and grab the rim with two hands, come on over and talk to me.” Calipari also said he wouldn’t allow Vanderbilt to try to play through pain because the games are too difficult to have a player at 80 percent.

So, how did the Cats cover up for the loss of someone that averaged a team-high 7.9 rebounds per game? For the Cats, they enlisted help from a player near the end of the bench.

While center Sacha Killeya-Jones couldn’t match the imposing rebounding that Vanderbilt provided, he played a brand of defense that limited Georgia’s effectiveness near the rim. In 11 minutes, Killeya-Jones had one point, one rebound and three fouls. Calipari said his center had a good game.

“All the moves that I would usually make to get to the rim couldn’t be done because there was help side there,” said SEC Player of the Year and Bulldog forward Yante Maten. Often, that player was Killeya-Jones.

Analysis: UK’s defense against Georgia

He and P.J. Washington frequently forced Maten into post traps and limited his effectiveness almost completely, only allowing four of his nine points to come from the field.

“We limited him to some minor baskets,” Washington said. “I think free throws and stuff like that. We just fouled him on some open threes, too. So he got lucky on those.”

Maten averaged 0.69 points every minute he played over the first two games of the SEC tournament, scoring 23 points a game over two games. Against the Cats, he was limited to 0.27 points per minute, just over a third of his effectiveness before this game.

The Cats will have to survive at least another game without Vanderbilt as they’ll take on the Crimson Tide tomorrow, who could have lost big man Donta Hall to their previous game. Against Auburn Friday afternoon, Hall hit his head on the floor after flipping over a Tiger player and was immediately taken off the floor.

Scouting report: Alabama Crimson Tide

UK’s matchup against the Tide will take place at 1 p.m. ET.