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Top-ranked Kentucky beats No. 21 Vanderbilt 85-72

By: AP
By: AP

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - DeMarcus Cousins posted his 12th double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds as No. 1 Kentucky bounced back from an upset loss to South Carolina with a 85-72 win over No. 21 Vanderbilt on Saturday.

Darnell Dodson added 16 points in a rare start for the Wildcats (20-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference), who played like the nation's top-ranked team for long stretches in front of special guest LeBron James.

Kentucky built an early 19-point lead then made it hold up while the NBA superstar, a friend of coach John Calipari, watched from courtside.

Jermaine Beal led the Commodores (16-4, 5-1) with 19 points, but Vanderbilt couldn't pull off its second road upset of the week in a physical, whistle-plagued game that featured 58 fouls and very little flow.

Calipari called Kentucky's loss to the Gamecocks on Tuesday a much-needed reality check, saying his team had gotten a little too full of itself after the best start in over four decades.

A phone call from president Barack Obama hours before the game didn't help, as the Wildcats were stunned in the second half.

Kentucky regained its focus against the Commodores, hardly bothered by the presence of James, who created a buzz when he made his entrance a few minutes in.

By then the Wildcats already had the lead thanks to Cousins. The freshman converted four three-point plays in the first eight minutes, destroying whatever defense Vanderbilt threw his way.

When the Commodores tried to double-team, Cousins would spin toward the baseline for an easy basket or throw the pass to an open teammate for a jumper - the latest facet in his quickly developing game.

And there were good looks aplenty for the Wildcats, who made 12 of 23 3-point attempts and dominated the boards, outrebounding Vanderbilt 41-22, leading to 20 second-chance points.

Kentucky's dominance in the lane helped make up for a less than spectacular performance from freshman star John Wall.

The point guard finished with 13 points, nine assists and seven turnovers in 34 minutes. He shot just 4 of 12 from the field as the Commodores did a fantastic job of keeping Kentucky out of transition. The Wildcats failed to score a fast break basket for the first time in memory.

Not that it mattered. Kentucky needed less than 10 minutes to build a double-digit lead and this time made it hold up, a sign of progress for a team that Calipari has consistently chastised for relaxing too much when it gets comfortably ahead.

Vanderbilt, which won on the road at No. 14 Tennessee on Wednesday, fell to 7-15 all-time against the No. 1 team. Nearly half of those losses have come at Rupp Arena.

The Wildcats will likely fall from the top spot when the new poll comes out Monday, but avoided a precipitous drop thanks to a balanced attack behind Cousins.

Dodson knocked down four 3-pointers in just his second start of the season, Eric Bledsoe added 13 points and seven rebounds and Patrick Patterson had 12 points and four boards for the Wildcats.

Kentucky led 49-34 at the break, but the Commodores collected themselves to keep things mildly interesting.

Vanderbilt's best chance to make a move came after Wall was called for an offensive foul with Kentucky leading 76-64 with about 5 minutes to go. The Commodores executed perfectly, but forward Jeffery Taylor missed a reverse dunk. Dodson came down and sank a 3-pointer to push Kentucky's advantage back to 79-64 with 3:57 to go.

The shot seemed to finally put an end to the seemingly endless parade to the free-throw line, as the whistles finally abated and James showed his appreciation by standing up and applauding while he made his way to the exits.


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