Kentucky Hangs On, Wins SEC Opener

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Jodie Meeks scored 21 points and
Kentucky's defense suffocated Vanderbilt in a 70-60 victory in the
Southeastern Conference opener for both schools on Saturday.
Ramon Harris added 12 points and seven rebounds while making all
five of his shots and the Wildcats (12-4, 1-0) held the Commodores
(11-4, 0-1) to just 31.6 percent shooting (18 of 57) in snapping
Vanderbilt's six-game winning streak.
Jermaine Beal led Vanderbilt with 18 points and Jeffery Taylor
had 15 points and 11 rebounds, but the Commodores struggled without
leading scorer A.J. Ogilvy. The sophomore dressed but watched the
entire game from the bench after aggravating a heel injury on
The Wildcats took control during a 21-4 run early in the second
half. Meeks helped get it started by banking in a 3-pointer and
Harris finished it with a putback that gave Kentucky a 55-35 lead.
The Commodores got as close as six in the final minute, but
Kentucky made its free throws to avoid a late-game collapse.
Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie worried about how his team -
which has struggled with turnovers all season - would handle
Vanderbilt's defense. The Commodores entered the game second in the
county in field goal percentage, allowing opponents to shoot just
35.6 percent from the floor.
The Wildcats, however, had little trouble getting good shots
despite an off night by star center Patrick Patterson, who finished
with 11 points - eight below his average - and a season-low one
rebound in 27 minutes.
No biggie. Patterson's teammates helped fill in the gaps, a good
sign for a team that's relied a little too heavily on Patterson and
Meeks to carry the load during the season.
Perry Stevenson scored 10 points and Michael Porter added eight
points as Kentucky's depth and defense frustrated the inexperienced
Vanderbilt started three freshmen and brought two freshmen, two
sophomores and a junior off the bench. Kentucky's pressure and the
raucous din at Rupp Arena seemed to bother the Commodores after a
hot start, and Vanderbilt turned it over 15 times while handing out
just nine assists.
Kentucky trailed by as many as seven early before a 12-2 run
over the last five minutes of the first half gave the Wildcats a
31-27 lead at the break. Kentucky made the surge without Patterson,
who sat the last 10 minutes of the half after picking up his second
In stepped Stevenson, who had played erratically against quality
opponents this year and failed to emerge as a third scoring option
behind Patterson and Meeks. No matter. He hit a layup late in the
half that gave the Wildcats the lead and Porter followed it up with
an off-balance 18-footer as the shot clock expired.
The win restored a sense of order in a series the Wildcats have
dominated for years. Vanderbilt entered the game having won five of
the last six in the series, including a 41-point win in Nashville
last year that marked Kentucky's worst loss in SEC history.
The Wildcats never came close to returning the favor, but the
emphatic victory - even against the undermanned and inexperienced
Commodores - gives Kentucky some momentum heading into a showdown
on Tuesday at No. 15 Tennessee. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, hopes Ogilvy
is ready when the Commodores host Georgia on Wednesday.

McClellan 2-10 0-0 5, Ezeli 0-0 2-4 2, Beal 5-11 7-7 18, Tinsley 4-15 0-0 11, Taylor 4-11 6-6 15, Goulbourne 1-3 0-0 2, Graham 0-0 0-0 0, Tchiengang 2-4 0-0 5, Drake 0-2 2-2 2, Duffy 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-57 17-19 60.
Porter 2-5 4-4 8, Stevenson 5-6 0-0 10, Harris 5-5 0-1 12, Meeks 5-16 8-8 21, Patterson 5-8 1-2 11, Miller 0-4 2-2 2, Stewart 0-1 0-0 0, Liggins 0-5 1-2 1, Harrellson 2-5 0-0 5. Totals 24-55 16-19 70.
Halftime-Kentucky 31-27. 3-Point Goals-Vanderbilt 7-25 (Tinsley 3-10, Tchiengang 1-2, Taylor 1-2, Beal 1-4, McClellan 1-5, Drake 0-1, Goulbourne 0-1), Kentucky 6-19 (Meeks 3-9, Harris 2-2, Harrellson 1-2, Porter 0-1, Miller 0-2, Liggins 0-3). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Vanderbilt 35 (Taylor 11), Kentucky 34 (Harris, Meeks 7). Assists-Vanderbilt 9 (Beal 3), Kentucky 13 (Harris, Meeks 3). Total Fouls-Vanderbilt 17, Kentucky 14. A-24,249.

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