LEXINGTON, Ky. – Vanderbilt seems an unlikely candidate to stop the Kentucky basketball freight train, but you never know in that quirky little house of horrors known as Memorial Gym. The sixth-ranked Wildcats have won their first three SEC games by margins of 23, 42 and 26 points and the Commodores are not far removed from losses to Dayton and Middle Tennessee (by blowout).
Kentucky leads the all-time series 141-47 and is 11-4 against Vanderbilt under coach John Calipari, but this meeting will have a much different feel. For the first time since 1999, Kevin Stallings won’t be on the Commodores’ sideline – or baseline, rather. Former Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew is now in charge.
So throw away all those tapes of Stallings-coached Vandy, right? Maybe not.
“The crazy thing is, I didn’t think I had to watch last year’s Vanderbilt tapes,” Calipari said. “That’s what you think, and then I watch my first game tape and they’re running the stuff they ran a year ago. So now I had to go back and I had to start watching our game tapes from last year with them. But you know, it’s smart.
“They’re a terrific offensive team, they have 3-point shooters and that’s how they play: they’re running almost all the stuff with a couple little adjustments. But it’s mostly the stuff they ran a year ago.”
Of note: Kentucky has lost its last two games at Vanderbilt, including 74-62 last season.
Kentucky basketball vs. Vanderbilt game time, details
Date: Tuesday, Jan. 10
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Memorial Gym (14,316)
Vegas Line: Kentucky by 11
What TV channel is Kentucky basketball vs. Vanderbilt on?
The game will be broadcast on ESPN (DirecTV channel 206, DISH channel 140, Time Warner channel 27/753 HD).
How can I watch Kentucky basketball vs. Vanderbilt online?
Who is calling the Kentucky basketball game vs. Vanderbilt?
Play-by-play by Brent Musberger, analysis by Sean Farnham, sideline reporting by Kaylee Hartung.
How can I listen to Kentucky basketball vs. Vanderbilt?
Play-by-play by Tom Leach, analysis by Mike Pratt on Sirius 145, XM 190 and AM-630 (in Lexington).
No. 6 Kentucky (13-2, 3-0 SEC)
G-De’Aaron Fox (6-3, Fr.): 16.3 ppg, 6.7 apg, 5.1 rpg
G-Malik Monk (6-3, Fr.): 21.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.1 apg
G-Isaiah Briscoe (6-3, So.): 15.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.2 apg
F-Wenyen Gabriel (6-9, Fr.): 5.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.0 bpg
F-Bam Adebayo (6-10, Fr.): 13.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.8 bpg
TOP RESERVES – F Derek Willis, 6-9, Sr., 7.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg; C Isaac Humphries, 7-0, So., 3.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg; G Mychal Mulder, 6-4, Sr., 6.9 ppg, 2.0 rpg; G Dominique Hawkins, 6-0, Sr., 3.0 ppg, 2.3 apg, 1.6 rpg.
Vanderbilt (8-7, 2-1 SEC)
G-Riley LaChance (6-2, Jr.): 9.6 ppg, 4.2 apg, 3.1 prg
G-Payton Willis (6-4, Fr.): 7.3 ppg, 2.9 apg, 2.4 rpg
G-Matthew Fisher-Davis (6-5, Jr.): 16.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.2 apg
F-Jeff Roberson (6-6, Jr.): 9.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.1 apg
F-Luke Kornet (7-1, Sr.): 12.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.3 apg
TOP RESERVES – G Nolan Cressler, 6-4, Sr., 6.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg; F Joe Toye, 6-7, So., 4.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg; C Djery Baptiste, 6-10, Fr., 2.3 ppg, 1.9 rpg.
* Grounding Vandy’s bombers: Vanderbilt averages 10 made 3-pointers per game, which ranks 11th nationally. LaChance leads the nation in percentage (58.2) and Fisher-Davis is second in the SEC in made threes (45), behind only UK’s Monk. So how will the Wildcats try to stop that barrage from beyond the arc?
“You know, it’s hard to stop anybody from shooting threes. You just think about if a team wants to come down and take 22-footers,” Calipari said, shrugging. “It’s just hard – and they’re saying they’re going to take them. Some of it is, if they make 20 threes, you (say), ‘Good job’ and go home and what’s the next game? You’re hoping you’re guarding them and making them hard, but the reality of it is, when a team is committed to shooting threes like they are, it’s not easy to walk into a game saying, ‘Well, we’re just going to do this.’ ”
* UK’s four-guard lineup: With some struggles at the “four” spot, Calipari kept suggesting the possibility of playing four guards with big man Bam Adebayo, and foul trouble finally forced his hand against Arkansas on Tuesday, with 6-foot-4, 185-pound Mulder as the four. And it went pretty well. “I think we pushed the lead open a little bit at that time,” Mulder said.
Defending much bigger players in the post, Mulder did all he could to deny the ball and make life difficult for his man, and Calipari noticed. “I loved the fact that he fought and didn’t give an inch. He battled. Like, he wasn’t afraid,” the coach said. “And he makes us different.”
Mulder, a junior-college transfer who rarely got off the bench last season, is averaging 6.9 points per game and has made 22 of 51 3-pointers this season. That clip (43.1 percent) leads the team, and he’s hit 6 of 12 over the last four games.
“I feel just a ton more trust from Coach, just this year to last year,” Mulder said. “A lot more opportunity to show that I can defend and rebound, do those intangible things that some guards don’t do. So I feel the trust level rising, that’s for sure.”