When we last saw Kentucky, Tuesday night, they were thoroughly dismantling the Tennessee Vols. What we saw, is what we need to see Saturday at Vanderbilt, one of the toughest venues in college sports to visit. The Cats got to all of the 50/50 balls, were very active on the glass and played with A LOT of intensity, something that’s been missing on the road since the Louisville game.
The Cats look to get back to that high level of basketball that’s been missing on the road since New Years Eve, in a HUGE S.E.C. tilt. Vandy is coming off of a gutty win Thursday night at home vs. Alabama, and looks to take control of 2nd place in the S.E.C. East, which is important because 2nd place gives you an all important bye in the 1st round of the S.E.C. Tournament.
One of the major keys to victory Saturday is smothering Sophomore John Jenkins. Jenkins averages 19 pts per games, while knocking down 40% of his 3′s and getting to the line to make 89% of his free throws. Threes in Memorial Gymnasium can lead to a serious run for Vandy, especially when the crowd gets into it. Like Coach Cal said, “everywhere we’ve played on the road, it’s been a white out, red out, blue out” so we should expect a gold out or black out Saturday, although just the fact that Kentucky is coming to town should be enough to get the Vandy fans at a fever pitch. Stopping the 3 ball and stopping Vandy runs will help silence the crowd and keep some of the momentum on the Kentucky side.
Jenkins isn’t the only Vandy sharpshooter; the Commodores have 6 guys that have drained almost 50 threes this season, so ball pressure on them is a must. Vandy will also try to pound the ball inside to Ezeli, Tchiengang, and Goulbourne to keep Kentucky honest, although if I were the coach I would dare these 3 guys to beat me inside rather than doubling and leaving a wide open three for someone on the perimeter.
The Cats and the road haven’t been good for each other, but they are just as close to winning the 4 road games they lost as they were to losing them. To win this game, Kentucky MUST match the Commodores intensity from the opening tip. They must get to the majority of loose balls and not allow 2nd and 3rd shots by getting outhustled and finally they MUST defend the 3 ball, if Vandy knocks down more than 10-12 of them you can count the Cats out.
Another huge road test for the Cats, but I think they’ve learned from previous losses and will play with the fire that’s needed to come out of Nashville with a victory.. I say Cats 77 Commodores 72.
GO BIG BLUE!!!!!!