Every time the Kentucky Wildcats play the Vanderbilt Commodores, it's an all-out war. This time, Vanderbilt came out on top to win the 2012 SEC Championship, their first since 1951.
After three games in three days, the legs for both teams weren't there, but Vanderbilt's outside shooting, perimeter defense and scrappiness underneath the basket gave them a well deserved 71-64 win over the regular-season SEC champs.
Here's what Kentucky will take away from the game:
- Darius Miller was put into the starting lineup at the behest of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to help get the senior going more offensively. It worked (at first): Miller led all Kentucky scorers with 16 points to go along with four assists and three rebounds. We'll get to the shooting percentages later...
- Marquis Teague didn't score (0-of-7 from the field) but did have six assists and zero turnovers.
- Kyle Wiltjer made much better use of his minutes off of the bench, going 3-of-4 from the field (2-of-3 from behind the arc) for eight points. He also made an impact of the defensive side of the ball, blocking three shots.
- The Wildcats' shooting, particularly from three-point range, was atrocious. Doron Lamb, who can usually be counted on for points from outside the paint, went 2-of-11 from the field and 1-of-8 from behind the arc. Darius Miller ended up 7-of-17 from the field after a hot start, missing many of his shots during the latter moments of the second half.
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist struggled to get going offensively (five points, two turnovers), but he normally can make up for a poor scoring effort with his defense. This time, he was repeatedly drawn out to the perimeter and failed to keep Vanderbilt from launching virtually uncontested outside shots. He also fouled out with almost three minutes left in the game.
- Speaking of fouls, the Wildcats dealt with some of the most severe foul trouble that they have been in since the Indiana game.
- While Anthony Davis was not terrible by any stretch, he wasn't nearly as offensively dominant as he had been during the first two games of the tournament (12 points, 4-of-9 shooting). He is also usually a 70% free throw shooter but shot 4-8 from the line today.
- Terrence Jones had two dunks (one of them an absolute monster through the lane) with under 11 minutes to go, when the Wildcats looked like they were taking control of the game. After that, it seemed as if the Wildcats stopped running plays to Jones inside or would give up on going to him in the post far too quickly.
- Today was Anthony Davis' 19th birthday. I don't think he will remember it very fondly.
- Digger Phelps knocked Kentucky for their recent poor three-point shooting (and was sternly rebuked by Rece Davis). There may be nothing worse than having Digger Phelps make a correct negative prediction about your team.
- I know this will sound cliched and like sour grapes/saving face, but if there was a "good" game for Kentucky to lose, it was this one. The team will be angry and hungry going into the NCAA tournament.