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Kentucky Kernel

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At the buzzer: No. 17 Kentucky earns statement bounce-back win at Vanderbilt

Samuel Colmar
Kentucky forward Zvonimir Ivišić reacts to a 3-pointer during the Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt men’s basketball game on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024, at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo by Samuel Colmar | Staff

No. 17 Kentucky men’s basketball earned a statement bounce-back win over Vanderbilt inside Memorial Gymnasium on Tuesday.

The game, which finished 109-77, saw a scoring flurry from numerous unusual suspects including career highs from freshman Jordan Burks, who scored 13 points, and Justin Edwards, who dropped 17 points.

Kentucky entered the game on a losing skid, having dropped its last two against Florida and No. 6 Tennessee, both at home, with poor defensive displays.

Looking to get back to its winning ways, UK rolled out a starting lineup of Edwards, Antonio Reeves, Adou Thiero, Ugonna Onyenso and Reed Sheppard. The Cats were forced to play without typical starters D.J. Wagner and Tre Mitchell, both of whom were injured.

Kentucky got off to a quick start, jumping out to a 17-8 lead and leading by double digits (25-15) less than six minutes into the game.

With less than eight minutes left in the half the lead stood at 12 points on the back of Dillingham’s 13 to lead all scorers despite coming off the bench.

Unfortunately for the home fans in attendance, the lead would grow to 20 around a minute later.

The Wildcats shared the love on offense with Zvonimir Ivišić and Jordan Burks even able to get in on the scoring action, boosting the Cats to over 51 points with over two-and-a-half minutes left to play in the first.

Despite the strong offense, poor rebounding and shot selection late in the half allowed the Commodores to crawl back within 20 by the halfway point.

Starting the second half of play, Kentucky and Vanderbilt seemed neck-and-neck with UK out-scoring the Commodores 9-8 despite a dry spell from the floor for the Cats, but the strong first half ensured that the visitors held a 17-point lead and were still shooting above 50% from the floor and 60% from beyond the arch.

With just under 12 minutes left to play the Cats had already cracked 70 points with 12 made 3-pointers and Reeves leading all scorers with 24 points.

Things would only get better for Kentucky after that with a scoring frenzy around the eight-minute mark seeing the Cats get back ahead by over 20.

UK’s offense would continue to thrive with a dunk by Burks with nearly four minutes remaining seeing the Cats break triple digits.

Another dunk by Burks would see another milestone: a 30-point lead.

With the Cats racing to the finish line, the Commodores had no opportunity to catch up and were soundly defeated in their home gym.

The Cats will return to action on Saturday, Feb. 10, back inside Rupp Arena against Gonzaga in the final non-conference matchup of the regular season. Tip-off against the Zags is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET and will air live on CBS Sports.

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About the Contributors
Cole Parke, Sports Editor
Samuel Colmar, Assistant Photo Editor

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