On Saturday, the Vanderbilt Commodores (20-8) will have a tall task on their hands—go into one of the toughest places for visiting opponents, Rupp Arena, and try to steal a win from the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats (27-1).
When the teams last met, Kentucky escaped with a 69-63 win after Vanderbilt overcame a 13-point halftime deficit and led, 63-61, with 4:08 to go. The Kentucky defense then took over, preventing Vanderbilt from scoring a single point in the final four minutes of play.
For Vanderbilt, an upset over Kentucky would be the signature win needed to guarantee their place in the NCAA tournament. For Kentucky, this game is just another opportunity to prove that they are the nation's elite squad this year.
Where: Rupp Arena, Lexington, Ky.
When: 12:00 p.m. EST, Feb. 25, 2012
Live Stream: CBS Sports
Betting Line: TBD
Vanderbilt Commodores Injury Report (via SportsBooks.com)
Out: Josh Henderson (foot, out indefinitely)
Kentucky Wildcats Injury Report (via SportsBooks.com)
Out: Jon Hood (knee, out for season)
Out: Sam Malone (knee, out for season)
What They're Saying
For Vanderbilt, some key adjustments will need to be made in order to win this game. The last time these teams met, Kentucky freshman point guard Marquis Teague tore the Commodores’ man-to-man defense to shreds in the first half. While Vanderbilt’s defense will have to pay close attention to freshman phenomenon Anthony Davis, sophomore sniper Doron Lamb and the do-it-all forward duo of freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and sophomore Terrence Jones, the Commodores will need to keep Teague and company out of the paint through a zone defense. If Vanderbilt can utilize its zone defense and close out on Kentucky’s shooters, the Commodores could slow the Wildcats down.
Most Important Player: Anthony Davis, Forward, Kentucky
The last time these teams met, the freshman was a beast, scoring 15 points, snaring eight rebounds and blocking seven shots. Davis' ability to dominate the paint and make opponents hesitant to drive to the basket is a major reason why Kentucky has one of the nation's best interior defenses (if not the best).
Key Matchup: Vanderbilt's Shooters vs. Kentucky's Perimeter Defense
Vanderbilt is tied for 14th in the nation with a .398 three-point shooting percentage and is tied for eighth in the nation with 247 three-pointers made this year.
When the teams last played, Kentucky held Vanderbilt to an 8-for-21 shooting performance from beyond the arc (38.1 percent), a number the Commodores would very much like to improve this time around. Their leading scorers, John Jenkins (20.1 PPG) and Jeffery Taylor (17.3 PPG), will also have to do better than the 28 combined points Kentucky held them to in their last meeting.
Three-pointers can be the great equalizer in college basketball, especially for a team like Vanderbilt trying to keep up with the elite athletes of Kentucky. If Vandy is hitting their shots, this should be a very exciting contest.
Who will win?
Kentucky is on a different level than Vanderbilt, and the home-court advantage can't be overlooked. Vandy will give them a game, but the young stars of Kentucky will be too much for them to handle.
Kentucky 74, Vanderbilt 65
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