LEXINGTON, Ky. — It wasn't pretty, but Kentucky got it done over Vanderbilt, grinding out a 77-70 win over the Commodores inside Rupp Arena. The Cats are now 18-4 on the season and 7-2 in SEC play.
The seven-point win came after a game which felt intense for a regular season, weeknight game between No. 5 Kentucky and unranked Vanderbilt. The Cats led for more than 32 of the game's 40 minutes, but the lead changed seven times throughout the night.
Davion Mintz led the way for Kentucky, scoring 21 points on 6-11 shooting, including 4-7 from deep. Keion Brooks Jr. surpassed 20 points for the second game in a row, finishing with 20 points.
Oscar Tshiebwe didn't have his most-efficient night but still finished with a double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. Sahvir Wheeler scored just three points but dished out nine assists in 28 minutes. TyTy Washington finished with seven points on 3-7 shooting. Vanderbilt's Scotty Pippen Jr. led all scorers with 33 points.
Calipari jokes Scotty Pippen Jr. probably wishes he could play Kentucky 5 times a year— BBN Tonight (@BBNTonight) February 3, 2022
Pippen had 32 against the Cats the first time around back in January, and he poured in 33 tonight
The first half got off to a relatively-slow start, with Kentucky connecting on just two of its first eight baskets. Vanderbilt held a 6-5 lead at the first media timeout, but things heated up quickly from there.
Mintz was fouled on a 3-pointer and converted the four point play. With 11:21 to play in the first half, Oscar Tshiebwe was called for his first foul of the game, which eventually lead to a technical foul on John Calipari. By the end of the game, both head coaches had been assessed technicals. Six players (four Commodores, two Wildcats) were each called for four or more fouls.
Vandy followed up with with a 9-0 run over the next 2:59 while the Cats shot 0-5 from the floor, but a Grady three broke the drought and tied the game at 18.
Jacob Toppin brought his usual energy off the bench, blocking a Vandy shot and creating the opportunity for a TyTy Washington and-one that brought the crowd to its feet.
Toppin BLOCK ➡️ TyTy AND ONE@Jtoppin0 🤝 @tytywashington3 pic.twitter.com/WXwhITYesS— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) February 3, 2022
At the break, Kentucky held a 41-31 lead. Pippen Jr. led all scorers with 17, while Grady lead the Cats with 12, all of which came from 3-pointers.
Kentucky struggled to score at the start of the second half, and Vanderbilt quickly chipped away at UK's 10-point halftime lead. Following a flagrant one foul called on Tshiebwe, the Cats' lead had slipped to 43-39 as the Commodores started the second half on an 11-3 run. Just when Vandy had cut the margin to one point, Mintz drained a three from the left wing to extend Kentucky's lead to 47-43.
The game stayed chippy, with Vanderbilt's physicality forcing several hard fouls down the stretch. UK finished the game shooting 39 percent from the floor, 44 percent from deep and 71 percent from the free throw line. For one of the first times this season, Kentucky's opponent won the rebounding battle; Vandy pulled in 37 boards, compared to UK's 30.
Ultimately, Kentucky was too much for the Commodores, and the Wildcats beat the 'Dores for the second time this season.
The Cats hit the road this weekend, when they'll take on Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Tip-off is set for Saturday at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
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