[SLIDESHOW] Wall saves Cats late, UK defeats Vanderbilt 58-56


Freshman guard John Wall celebrates after UK’s 58-56 win over Vandy at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville on Saturday, Feb. 20. 2010. Photo by Britney McIntosh

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The legend continues to grow.

With 2.5 seconds remaining in the game, UK freshman John Wall blocked Vanderbilt freshman John Jenkins’ 3-point attempt and got the ball before being fouled, and UK escaped from Memorial Gym with a 58-56 win for the first time since 2005.

“That just shows the type of competitive player John is,” junior forward Patrick Patterson said. “He has that heart, he has that passion for the game. He knew coming down the stretch we wanted a big play and he stepped up and he made it.”

Trailing 45-49 with 6:08 to play, the Cats (26-1, 11-1 Southeastern Conference) went on an 8-0 run in the next 2:14 to take the lead back. Vanderbilt responded with a 4-0 run of its own to tie the game, but a Wall layup and two free throws on the next two possessions gave UK a four-point lead at 57-53.

Jenkins got the Commodores within one on a 3-pointer with 12.6 seconds remaining, but that was as close as Vanderbilt would get.

After two missed free throws by freshman guard Eric Bledsoe, Wall blocked Jenkins’ 3-point attempt that would have given Vanderbilt the lead back. Wall made one of his two free throws and then UK head coach John Calipari called a timeout, which he later said was one of the dumbest timeouts he’s ever called in his career.

“As I left the timeout I said, ‘Guys, this is the stupidest timeout I have ever called, please make me look good. Somebody do something,’ ” Calipari said.

Vanderbilt threw the ball the length of the floor as Vanderbilt junior center A.J. Ogilvy skied to catch the ball. Ghosts of the 1992 East Regional Final against Duke had to race through the minds of Big Blue Nation. The story ended better for UK fans this time, and unlike Duke’s Christian Laettner, Ogilvy’s shot rimmed out and UK’s lead in the SEC grew to two games.

Nobody ever said it had to be pretty, and when UK and Vanderbilt (20-6, 9-3 SEC) get together, it hasn’t been.

The two teams combined for 47 fouls, including two technical fouls in their meeting Saturday. In their first meeting Jan. 30, the ‘Dores and Cats slugged it out to the tune of 58 fouls and two technicals.

The Cats built an early 12-6 lead in the first half, their biggest lead of the game, but Vanderbilt came back on a 12-4 run to take a two-point lead.

The Cats pushed the lead to five with 2:04 to play in the half on back-to-back dunks from Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, but Vanderbilt didn’t allow UK to score for the remainder of the half and it was 27-25 at the break in favor of the Cats.

The second half began with a steal from Vanderbilt sophomore forward Jeffery Taylor on a pass from Darius Miller to Bledsoe. Taylor took it to the opposite end of the floor for the easy dunk to tie the game at 27. On the ensuing possession, Bledsoe was called for fouling Taylor while driving to the basket.

While walking back to the opposite end of the floor the officials had to separate the two for jawing at each other and technical fouls were assessed to each player, only adding more fuel to the sweltering tension in Memorial Gym.

While the intensity and tension were high, the shooting percentages were not. The two teams struggled shooting from the floor throughout the game. Vanderbilt shot 32.1 percent from the floor while UK shot just 35.8 percent. The two teams were a combined 5-of-36 from beyond the 3-point arc.

With the various styles of play on offense and defense UK will see in the NCAA Tournament in March, Calipari said these types of games will help prepare the young Cats.

“I love this,” Calipari said. “Shooting 35 percent and 18 (percent) from the three and winning anyway.”

It was the first time any player on the UK roster had won in Memorial Gym, and it was the Commodores’ first home loss of the season and only their eighth in the last four seasons combined.

“For us to come in this hostile environment and come out with a victory, it tastes sweet, it tastes good and it feels good too to know that we came out with a hard-earned win and all my teammates were just playing with great passion and great intensity out there,” Patterson said.