COLUMN: Logic proves Vandy unstoppable with Jenkins’ career-best 32 points

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Junior guard DeAndre Liggins scored 10 points against Vanderbilt. When Liggins reaches double-figure scoring UK wins.

Using these premises as the basis for this problem, logic would dictate the Cats must have defeated the Commodores on Saturday and finally snagged their first meaningful road victory of the season, right? Wrong. In this case, that would be flawed logic because the Commodores’ No. 23 was a variable that couldn’t (and wouldn’t) be removed from the equation.

In very Jordan-esque fashion, Vandy sophomore guard John Jenkins represented his jersey number proudly: He exploded for a career-high 32 points, including six 3-pointers, played almost the entire 40 minutes of the game and the Southeastern Conference leader in points and made 3-pointers was virtually unstoppable in every way.

“We couldn’t really contain Jenkins tonight,” UK senior forward Josh Harrellson said.

Agreed. And not only were Jenkins’ threes numerous, but also clutch. With 4:29 remaining in the game, Jenkins hit a go-ahead 3-pointer to break a 66-all tie and the Commodores would not surrender the lead for the rest of the game.

“There were some of them where we were all over him (and Jenkins still made them),” UK head coach John Calipari said.

Jenkins’ Herculean effort was similar to what the diminutive Devan Downey did to UK last year in South Carolina’s upset of the then-No. 1 ranked Cats, where Downey put together a fantastic individual performance and quashed any chance of UK stealing a road victory.

Prior to Saturday, the Cats were 8-0 in games in which Liggins scored 10 points or more, and given his ever-increasing reputation as one of the best shutdown defenders in college basketball, the initial premises would have seemed to make for sound logic.

UK’s version of the script should’ve read this way: Liggins remains aggressive in the offense, much like in Tuesday’s win versus Tennessee and he smothers Jenkins defensively (you know, much like syrup on the waffles at Waffle House).

However, Liggins was emotional the entire game, picking up a technical foul in the first half and flirting with another in the second half, and he never quite managed to raise his game to the level of Jenkins’.

Liggins was called for his fourth personal foul with 10:40 remaining in the game, and with junior guard Darius Miller ailing with an apparent groin injury, Calipari had no choice but to shift freshman guard Brandon Knight into the role of guarding Jenkins to keep Liggins from fouling out.

If Liggins couldn’t stop him, Knight certainly wasn’t going to stop him.

“(Jenkins) just continues to move, he moves so fast,” Knight said. “ ‘Dre (Liggins) started off on him, then he got in foul trouble, so I moved onto him…basically, we were just trying to get a hand up on his shots.”

Calipari couldn’t hold Liggins, his defensive stalwart, at fault for failing to prevent a talented shooter from going absolutely ballistic in a game on national television in his home arena.

“(Liggins) did all right,” Calipari said. “It obviously hurt because he had fouls. He’s not the issue for us. He’s trying as hard as he can try.”

Last Saturday versus Florida, it was UK’s self-inflicted and repeated mistakes. It was an unstoppable Jenkins this time. Logic dictates that the Cats have yet to stop what is beginning to seem like an unstoppable tailspin of close-but-no-cigar road losses.