UK gets Vanderbilt again. The key: it’s at home


UK’s Brandon Knight shoots the ball during the first half of the University of Kentucky’s basketball game against Boston at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., on 11/30/10. UK led the game at half 40-33. Photo by Mike Weaver

Of course, there are the festivities Tuesday night. It’s Senior Day.

But it’s also win-and-UK-ties-for-second-place-in-the-SEC-East day, which would put the Cats one step closer to a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament.

That second-place team UK might be tied with? Vanderbilt, the very opponent coming into Rupp. UK lost at Vanderbilt in early February by four points. And now, it’s UK’s turn to be at home, where they have the second-largest winning streak in the nation.

“We didn’t do a great job defending them (at Vanderbilt), so I can only imagine what tomorrow could be like,” Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings said.

The first time around, UK didn’t do a great job defending John Jenkins, who scored 32 points and is now a frontrunner for SEC Player of the Year.

“If he’s on fire, it’s a hard game,” said John Calipari. “That’s their advantage against us.”

Vanderbilt is more than just Jenkins — although Calipari admitted that it’s hard to guard a guy who is banking in three-pointers from NBA range. Festus Ezeli provides a solid post presence, and Jeffery Taylor and Lance Gouldbourne are forwards who can take the team’s offense to another level.

“Obviously you have to guard to the perimeter, but they have a good post player, they got good drivers,” Calipari said.

“If Lance and Jeff are productive, we tend to be very good,” said Stallings. Taylor and Gouldourne scored a combined four points the last meeting.

UK, coming off what Doron Lamb called a statement game against Florida that proved UK “was back,” has a chance at another statement — and postseason bye positioning.

“Vanderbilt is a good statement game, too,” said Lamb. “We gotta win that game. It will get us a better seed.”

“They’re playing better than when we went there,” Calipari said. “They’re a better team. Hopefully we’re a better team.”