LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – After Saturday’s big win over Kansas, the first question a reporter asked Kentucky coach John Calipari was about why the Wildcats’ bench didn’t score in the game.
“Did we just win?” Calipari shot back.
It’ll be hard to find a negative to ask about following the Wildcats’ demolition of Vanderbilt on Tuesday night. Kentucky flattened Vanderbilt 87-52 in a Memorial Gymnasium that sounded more like Lexington's Memorial Coliseum with all of the UK fans in attendance.
Nashville is missing out on this week’s polar vortex. Temperatures there will be a dozen or so degrees warmer than those in Louisville and Lexington. But on Tuesday night, Kentucky brought its own polar vortex to the Music City, putting the clamps on Vandy’s offense and putting the Commodores on ice in the final 11 minutes of the first half.
After a Chris Brown basket pulled Vandy within 17-12 with 10:59 to play in the half. From that point on, Kentucky outscored the Commodores 28-3, and this one, as they say, was over.
The only challenge Vanderbilt provided was to ESPN announcers Karl Ravitch and Jimmy Dykes. At one point, they were playing an old song Dykes had written and performed.
Don’t hate. You try and make a 70-35 lead at the under-8 timeout interesting.
About the only difficulty Calipari had on this road trip was ordering coffee at a Nashville Dunkin' Donuts.
I was in Nashville at the @dunkindonuts and the line was long, so I tried to order coffee on the app. Obviously, I don’t know what I’m doing because there’s a coffee with one cream and one Splenda at the Dunkin Donuts on Main Street in Philly waiting to be picked up.— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) January 29, 2019
For Calipari, Kentucky's 45-15 halftime lead provided a little halftime mirth in his ESPN interview, when he made sure to mention bench scoring. The Wildcats wound up with 30 bench points in the game, including 14 from Nick Richards.
But Calipari also talked about his team’s defense – which right now, is no joking matter.
Kentucky is getting it defensively. A month ago, it was Ashton Hagans and everybody else. Now, the rest of the Wildcats have embraced a defensive identity.
They gave up only five first-half field goals. They forced 14 first-half turnovers.
And offensively they were dialed in. P.J. Washington had 26 points and 12 rebounds. Tyler Herro overcame a slow shooting start to score 12 points and added three steals.
Kentucky shot 55.6 percent for the game and 10-of-17 from three-point range.
Now, it must be said, Vanderbilt is not good. The Commodores are a team in free-fall, were coming off a 31-point loss at Oklahoma and had nothing for Kentucky on Tuesday. They haven’t won an SEC game yet, falling to 0-7 in conference. They haven’t won a game in 2019. They have beaten only two Power 5 opponents all season.
But Vandy did take No. 1 Tennessee down to the wire just a week ago.
And give Kentucky credit for doing what it was supposed to do in this game – dominate from the opening tip. The Wildcats have won seven in a row and 10 of their last 11.
It’s a team that is ahead of schedule. Calipari’s young teams generally need all of January before making a turn to figure things out. This team, with the aid of returning sophomore Washington and graduate transfer Reid Travis, figured it out far sooner, and it still has a pretty considerable upside.
Kentucky is at No. 7 in the nation right now. But it would be a dangerous team for any of the six ranked ahead of it.
And after their big hit in Nashville, it has to be said that Kentucky is No. 7 with a bullet.
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