Feb 20, 2013 10:34 PM
(AP) - Willie Cauley-Stein scored 20 points, and his two crucial blocks and key rebound in the final 34 seconds helped Kentucky outlast Vanderbilt 74-70 Wednesday night for its first win without injured star center Nerlens Noel.
Cauley-Stein, a 7-foot freshman manning the post for Kentucky (18-8, 9-4 Southeastern Conference) with Noel sidelined, blocked attempts by Kyle Fuller and Kedren Johnson 9 seconds apart before grabbing Johnson's missed 3-pointer with 17 seconds left and drawing a foul.
Cauley-Stein made 1 of 2 free throws for 74-67 lead that offset Sheldon Moats' 3 for Vanderbilt (10-15, 4-9) with 3 seconds remaining. Cauley-Stein finished 8 of 10 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds to provide Kentucky a sorely-needed victory after the Wildcats were shellacked 88-58 Saturday at Tennessee in their first game since Noel sustained a season-ending left knee injury at Florida on Feb. 12.
Noel's first public appearance since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament boosted the morale of the Wildcats, who had to withstand another Commodores rally.
Trailing 51-41 with 14:46 remaining, Vanderbilt's 18-10 run over the next 10-plus minutes got the Commodores within 61-59. Julius Mays answered with a 3-pointer to give Kentucky a five-point lead before Cauley-Stein added a basket leading up to his defensive heroics.
Archie Goodwin added 16 points and Ryan Harrow 12 for the Wildcats.
Johnson had 17 points and Rod Odum 16 for Vanderbilt.
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