FACTS & STATS: Site: Bridgestone Arena (20,000) -- Nashville, Tennessee.
Television: SEC Network, ESPN3.com. Home Record: Vandy 9-6, UK 16-2. Away
Record: Vandy 4-7, UK 4-7. Neutral Record: Vandy 2-3, UK 1-1. Conference
Record: Vandy 8-10, UK 12-6. Series Record: Kentucky leads, 138-45.
GAME NOTES: The second-seeded Kentucky Wildcats will play their first game of
the 2013 SEC Tournament on Friday night, as they take on the 10th-seeded
Vanderbilt Commodores in the quarterfinal round at Bridgestone Arena.
Vanderbilt pulled off an upset in its second-round matchup by taking down
seventh-seeded Arkansas, 75-72. The Commodores, who defeated Kentucky in last
year's SEC Tournament championship game, are just 15-16 on the season but are
surprisingly one of the hottest teams in the league with wins in five of their
last six games.
Kentucky (21-10) halted a two-game skid in its regular-season finale by
securing a 61-57 home victory over Florida to finish at 12-6 in the SEC and
earn the No. 2 seed in this event. The win over the nationally-ranked Gators
certainly helped the Wildcats' NCAA Tournament chances, but they would still
benefit greatly from a strong showing in the SEC Tournament, where they are
the most successful team in event history with a 119-23 record and 27 titles.
The Wildcats swept the season series with Vanderbilt this year, but those two
wins only came by a combined six points. Kentucky has a firm handle on the
all-time series, 138-45.
Vanderbilt played the role of front-runner for most of its latest game, even
leading by as many as 16 points in the second half, and while the Razorbacks
cut their deficit to single-digits down the stretch, they could never take the
lead. The team had a modest night shooting from the field (.411), but it was
active from 3-point range, draining 12-of-28 from beyond the arc. Rod Odom
shot 5-of-9 from long range for 20 points while adding seven rebounds and four
blocks, while Kyle Fuller netted 19 points off the bench, and Kedren Johnson
and Dai-Jon Parker chipped in 13 and 11 points, respectively.
On the season, the Commodores typically aren't a very strong offensive team,
netting a mere 60.5 ppg, but they have found success thanks to their
outstanding defense, which allows just 60.4 ppg. Johnson is the team's top
scorer with 13.6 ppg, while Odom brings 10.5 ppg to the table.
The Wildcats appeared in trouble when they trailed Florida by seven (57-50)
with under eight minutes to play the last time out, but they held the Gators
scoreless for the rest of the game as they finished on an 11-0 run to capture
the potential-season-saving victory. UK shot less than 40 percent from the
field on the afternoon but kept turnovers to a minimum (10) and won the
rebounding battle (40-34). Archie Goodwin led the way with 16 points, Ryan
Harrow and Julius Mays netted 13 points apiece, and Alex Poythress tacked on
nine points and 12 rebounds.
Kentucky uses a balanced attack that generates 73.9 ppg, while also playing
solid defense in yielding just 64.6 ppg. Goodwin acts as the team's leading
scorer with 14.1 ppg, while Poythress (11.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg) is also piecing
together an impressive freshman campaign. Upperclassmen Kyle Wiltjer (10.5
ppg), Harrow (10.3 ppg) and Mays (9.5 ppg) are all potent threats out on the
perimeter. The loss of Nerlens Noel (10.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 4.4 bpg, 2.1 spg) to a
torn ACL a few weeks back certainly hurt, but Willie-Cauley Stein (8.4 ppg,
6.1 rpg, 2.1 bpg) has filled his spot in the starting lineup admirably.
Vanderbilt is playing much better than anyone has expected, and after taking
Kentucky to the wire twice this season, expect the Commodores to put forth
another strong fight. Still, the Wildcats have too much at stake in this
matchup and are well rested, giving them the advantage to move on to the