Sunday, February 1, 2004
Cats falter late to Vandy's delight
Commodores pick up shot of confidence at home before road run
By Teresa M. Walker
The Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Vanderbilt needed a victory desperately, and its timing was perfect against No. 5 Kentucky.
Dan Cage hit a 3-pointer with 2:18 left that gave Vanderbilt the lead for good, and the Commodores held on to upset fifth-ranked Kentucky 66-60 Saturday.
Vanderbilt (14-4, 3-4), which had lost four of its last five games, fell out of the Top 25 earlier this week. The Commodores needed a victory at home, especially with three of their next four games on the road, where they have lost 11 straight league games dating to last season.
Vanderbilt forward Matt Freije (35) pulls a rebound away from Kentucky center Lukasz Obrzut (10) in the first half.
Coach Kevin Stallings wasn't sure how his Commodores would respond after falling to No. 24 South Carolina on a late shot Wednesday night.
"I could not be happier or prouder of our team," Stallings said.
Kentucky (14-3, 4-2) had its 10-game road winning streak in the Southeastern Conference snapped. The last time the Wildcats lost away from Rupp Arena in the SEC was Feb. 27, 2002 - in Memorial Gym to Vanderbilt.
They also had been 8-0 on the road this season.
"We were able to pull a rabbit out of our hat," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said of victories at places like Mississippi State. "But you've got to be sounder fundamentally."
Kentucky outrebounded Vanderbilt 41-34, but the Commodores wound up outshooting Kentucky 41 percent (20-of-48) to 37 percent (25-of-67), despite hitting just 12 of their final 40 shots after their perfect start.
The Wildcats have dominated this series, winning the previous four games and 22 of 23.
Vanderbilt started well, hitting its first eight shots and all six 3-point attempts. Kentucky, which has won more games in this gym than any other opponent, used a 20-3 run to lead by as many as 10 in the second half.
But in a game filled with runs, the Commodores had the last.
They trailed 58-52 with 4:29 remaining and finished with a 14-2 spurt that included Cage's 3-pointer to put Vanderbilt up 61-60. Scott Hundley found Cage for the go-ahead basket and couldn't believe the freshman was that wide open.
"I hit him, and he nailed it," Hundley said.
Kentucky had its chances to tie or take the lead in the final two minutes, but Chuck Hayes fouled Hundley with 1:40 left trying to rebound a missed shot by Erik Daniels. Cliff Hawkins lost a ball out of bounds, and then Russell Lakey stole the ball from Hawkins along the sideline with 17.7 seconds left.
"I knew Kentucky was going to go to Fitch," Lakey said. "I saw Hawkins go to the side and pick up his dribble in a bad spot, and I just got my hand on it."
Hawkins said: "I was trying to get the ball inside to Erik, and Lakey made a great play and got his hand on the ball."
Matt Freije finished with 20 points, and Dawid Przybyszewski added 13 off the bench for Vanderbilt. The Commodores never missed junior guard Corey Smith, who was suspended for this game because of a fight Wednesday night against South Carolina.
"It was the most adversity I've ever faced and our team's ever faced," Freije said. "To be able to come back and win a game like that, we didn't want to go 2-5 in the league. It was just a big game for us."
Gerald Fitch and Daniels each had 14 to lead Kentucky, and Kelenna Azubuike added 12.
Vandy also dominated at the free throw line, going 19-of-26. Kentucky was just 7-of-9, and Smith said it was because his Wildcats didn't finish shots near the basket.
"Guys looked like they were closing their eyes when they got to the rim, worried about whether they were going to get hit, flinching. Those should be 'and ones' or at least free throws or something," Smith said.
Daniels gave Kentucky a chance to blow the game wide open. He scored the final bucket of the first half and scored six of the first eight in the second half for the run that gave the Wildcats their biggest lead at 53-43.
Vanderbilt wouldn't let them pull away.
Lakey drove to the basket for a layup at 12:41 to start a 9-0 spurt, and Kentucky couldn't respond. The Wildcats went scoreless for five minutes before Chuck Hayes' bucket at 8:01 for a 55-52 edge.
Vanderbilt led 40-35 at halftime after a streaky first half that featured a 19-2 spurt by the Commodores and a 16-2 run by the Wildcats.
Team rebounds - 2.
Team rebounds - 4.
3-pointers - UK 3-19 (Daniels 0-1, Azubuike 2-6, Hawkins 0-2, Fitch 1-10), V 7-18 (Freije 2-4, Moore 0-3, Hundley 0-1, Lakey 0-1, Przybyszewski 3-5, Cage 2-3). Attendance - 14,168.
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