UK overcomes Vanderbilt threes to stay undefeated



By Joshua Huff

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Vanderbilt did its best to dethrone No. 1 UK on Tuesday at Rupp Arena, but a hot hand from beyond the arc was not good enough to knock the Cats off the short list of remaining unbeaten teams, as UK won 65-57.

The Commodores shot 7-for-18 from the three and used their transition game to open up freshman guard Riley LaChance, who went 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. The game plan for Vanderbilt was beating UK back in transition and feeding the perimeter players.

“As good as it is, you need to try and beat it before it gets set up, as far as I’m concerned,” Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings said about UK’s defense. “That felt like as good a chance as any for us to get down there and try to beat them before they got it set.”

The seven made three pointers can attest to the fact that though Vanderbilt lost, the transition game was effective for the Commodores. Freshman guard Matthew Fisher-Davis went 4-for-7 from the three as he and LaChance single-handedly kept Vanderbilt within striking distance of UK.

But it was the burst of energy from UK forward Marcus Lee and the clutch shooting of guard Aaron Harrison that kept Vanderbilt at bay. The rest of the Cats struggled to find a shot as they went 43 percent from the field as a team, but Harrison scored all 14 of his points in the second half to lead UK. Even the often-reliable shooter Devin Booker cooled off as he scored only six points in five shots.

However, it was the six consecutive points from Lee in the second half that held the Commodores at arm’s length.

“He was terrific,” UK head coach John Calipari said of Lee. “I thought he did well.”

As well as Lee played in the game (seven points and six rebounds), his free throw shooting, though improved of late, was the reason why he did not see substantial minutes down the stretch. With Vanderbilt playing hack-and-slash during the waning minutes, and with the score close down the stretch, Calipari resorted to playing his veterans.

That plan worked as Andrew Harrison delivered with less than two minutes left. With UK up just five points, the sophomore’s drive through the paint clinched the game for the Cats, putting them up by eight and forcing Vanderbilt to foul for the remainder of the game.

“They played well, they shot well,” Calipari said of Vanderbilt. “They weren’t afraid. Until the horn went off, there was no quit (in them).”