The SEC was dominated by the Kentucky Wildcats from the start this season, but Vanderbilt flipped the script in its 71-64 win to capture the SEC tournament championship for only the second time in school history.
The score was tied at the half, and the big difference was Kentucky's inability to score for a six-minute stretch at the end as the Commodores chipped away slowly but surely on a five-point deficit. The Wildcats failed to hit a field goal in the final eight minutes of the game.
In the big picture, this game didn't mean a whole lot for the Wildcats, who had their 24-game winning streak snapped. The No. 1 team in the country has perhaps already clinched a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance.
But this game mattered to Kentucky.
The Wildcats are a motivated bunch of young guys who seem to really hate the idea of losing. You've heard the stories about how angry the players get when watching the commercial of Indiana’s buzz-beater three that handed them their only other loss this year.
Now they have that same feeling yet again.
It was Kentucky’s year (again) in the SEC, and they enter the NCAA tournament perhaps as the top team in the country. They have one of the biggest targets on their back. They also enter the Big Dance with doubts about their ability to win in a frantic tournament setting when their backs are against the wall.
As for Vanderbilt, the Commodores are perhaps now, at worst, a No. 5 seed and potentially a No. 3 seed after their impressive SEC run.
Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde doesn't sound too concerned with UK dropping a game before the postseason begins:
"Kentucky finally took my advice and lost a game. Cats are now free to storm to the national title."
ESPN's Andy Katz confirms that, despite the loss, Kentucky is perhaps already locked in to their No. 1 seed in the Big Dance:
"But it won't affect seeding. Kentucky still the overall No. 1. Not sure it moves Vandy up too much. Lunardi is to my right. He agrees."
This was the first SEC tournament that Vanderbilt has won in a very long time, as Pete Thamel of The New York Times reminds us:
"Congrats to Vandy for its first sec title since the 1950s. The UK loss adds an air of vulnerability to them. Still the hands-down favorite"
The Daily's Dan Wolkin sounds more concerned than most, as a pattern is beginning to form with the Wildcats:
"Third straight day Kentucky hasn't looked sharp offensively. #theyneedaloss"
Vandy connected on 43 percent of their shots while Kentucky shot 35 percent. It was the biggest difference in the game. That makes ESPN baseball analyst and Vandy alum Buster Olney look like a genius for his prediction before the game:
"Vanderbilt's recipe for beating Kentucky in SEC title game on Sunday at 1 p.m.: A whole lot of great shooting, and a little bit of good luck"
Terrence Jones shot 5-of-11, but none of them had as much force as his dunk with 10:40 remaining in the second half.
This is uncharted territory for the Commodores, and it showed in the raw emotion displayed by coach Kevin Stallings. This is what March is all about.
Darius Miller: A
The senior was playing in his final SEC tournament and certainly made the most of it.
Miller scored 16 points while dishing out four assists and grabbing three rebounds. Every time the Kentucky offense began to stall, it was Miller who bailed the team out with his deceptively fast speed and smooth stroke up until the entire team fell apart in the final moments.
After playing rather poorly in the past two games, Miller made up for it and then some on Sunday. This guy has the makings of a star in the NBA, but for now, he has a championship to win.
Anthony Davis: C
It was his 19th birthday, and Davis got a cruel birthday present from the Commodores. When ESPN shows a montage of all the times he hit the deck, there is a good chance he's going to be feeling it in the morning.
Davis was not his dominant self, as he only recorded 12 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. He has to play much better from here on out to keep Kentucky alive.
Jeffery Taylor: A-
Taylor’s 18 points kept Vandy in the game, and the only reason he doesn't get a solid A is because he went a horrid 4-of-8 from the free-throw line.
John Jenkins: B-
The trigger-happy Jenkins fired off 10 three-pointers, but he made only three. He made up for it by connecting on eight of his nine free throws, though.
Jenkins ended up scoring 17, but his bricks were a big reason why the Commodores went thorough painfully long stretches of offensive futility.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: D
MKD picked up his third foul early in the second half and was tentative for the remainder of the game. He ended up fouling out with five points and two turnovers.
The sensational freshman has to regain his confidence in a hurry if Kentucky plans on cutting down the nets in New Orleans.