#18 Cats get first road win, down the Commodores 78-66 in Nashville

Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) shoots as Vanderbilt forward Quentin Millora-Brown (42)...
Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) shoots as Vanderbilt forward Quentin Millora-Brown (42) defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/John Amis)(John Amis | AP)
Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 8:48 PM EST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WYMT) - The #18 Kentucky Wildcats hit the road again Tuesday night for a game against an improved Vanderbilt Commodores squad looking to knock off a ranked SEC opponent in their home gym.

It was Kentucky’s second game without Sahvir Wheeler, who is still dealing with a neck injury suffered in the Cats road loss to LSU last week.

Kentucky started the scoring with an Oscar Tshiebwe hook shot, followed up by a TyTy Washington, Jr. three to start the game on a 7-0 run. Two quick threes from Vanderbilt’s Scottie Pippen, Jr. kept the ‘Dores in the game early. Kentucky, however, never pulled away and Vanderbilt was able to tie the game up at 22 just before the under-8 media timeout, going on an 11-0 run across nearly five minutes of gametime. Not to be outdone, Kentucky responded with a 18-2 run over the next five minutes to not only take the lead but extend it to double digits. The Cats would end up taking a 41-28 lead into the halftime locker room.

Kentucky was also fast out of the locker room to start the second half, extending their lead to 17. The Cats then ran away with it, extending the lead to 20 and never looking back.

Oscar Tshiebwe led Kentucky in both scoring (30 points, a career high) and rebounds (13 rebounds), recording yet another double-double. TyTy Washington was the only other Cat scoring in double-figures with 15 points. He also led the Cats in assists with 4.

Full stats:

Full statistics from the Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt game on Tuesday, January 11, 2022.
Full statistics from the Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt game on Tuesday, January 11, 2022.(StatBroadcast)

With the win, the Cats improve to 13-3 and 3-1 in the SEC. It’s back to Rupp Arena for the Cats to close out the week Saturday at 1:00 p.m. against the #22 Tennessee Volunteers. You can watch that marquee matchup on ESPN.

Here’s what head Coach John Calipari had to say following the win:

On Oscar Tshiebwe …

”Well, we had a game a couple of games ago where he graded out on his sprints the worst he had all season, and so now I am focused on him running that court. It puts him ahead of the action. It means he’s not going to foul. He’s going to get some easy ones. He’s in a great position to rebound. But here’s the other thing I like: The way the team’s finding him and passing him the ball. Think about it now. As much of it is that they’re throwing it, and the biggest thing is a couple of games ago he didn’t catch them. Like, he was leaving. So, we’ve got to go back and work on things with him. Do you remember early in the year? He couldn’t make two-footers, would offensive rebound and throw it out. Now he’s shooting jumpers, making free throws. I don’t want him to dribble the ball up the court. Not doing that. But, really happy to see how he’s playing. But Keion (Brooks Jr.) played well. Davion (Mintz) played well. TyTy (Washington Jr.) in the middle of the court in pick-and-rolls was a bear. I thought Jacob (Toppin) fought. Daimion (Collins). How about Bryce (Hopkins)? We need Bryce. But I can’t accept him going in the game and the game’s faster than him. Then you can’t be in, and that means you’ve got to practice and prepare with unbelievable energy so you can play that way and then make easy plays. You don’t need to go and do crazy stuff. You just don’t need too. You’re trying to get minutes and get on the floor and we need him out there.”

On how the team finished the game and if having Sahvir Wheeler would have changed that …

”I don’t know. I’ll have to watch the tape. But I knew it was, you know, I subbed. I put the starters back in. Come on, I’m not leaving guys in. Then the starters didn’t do much better. We let go of the rope. It’s something that we’ve got to get better at. When you get up as many as we got up on them, in this building? I don’t know. I don’t think any of my teams have had a 25-point lead. I don’t think so. Eric, (Lindsey) do you think they’ve had? At any point? [Eric Lindsey: You’ve trailed by double digits a lot of times in this place.] Yeah. Like we’re trying to win a game. But how about this: play fast and have nine turnovers? Multiple passes every time down. Everybody that calls me says, ‘I’m loving this team because they pass. They find each other. They move the ball.’ Well, every time you pass it there’s a chance for a turnover, and then the nine we had we had two in the last two minutes. Like I said, we’re getting better. It’s got to be all of us, really great execution and then defensively you’ve got to fight and have team rebounds. I mean, we’ve got hard games coming up. Hard games.”

On the unselfish play of this team …

”Well, they’re veterans, a bunch of them and they’ve played. So, they know you can’t every time you touch it try to make a play. Now when you’re in high school, Larry (Vaught), how do you play? That way. So, it takes high school guys longer to understand you’re better off with the ball moving. It’s an easier game for everybody and it should be pop, pop, drive, pop, pop, pop, lob. I mean, that’s the kind of stuff that we’re looking for and it takes time. We’ve got great kids. You can’t listen to the clutter. If you listen to the clutter, you’re going to try and make a play every time to show (your stuff). You can’t listen to it. Just be part of our team. The biggest thing I liked, I thought we defended our butts off early in the game. I don’t know what the final was, they got over 42(%), but it was 35% for a while, you know? And that’s what we want.”

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