Latest Team Rankings
Free Text Alerts
|ShopMobileRadio RSSRivals.com Yahoo! Sports|
|College Teams||High Schools|
February 25, 2007NASHVILLE, Tenn.--Derrick Byars and Shan Foster combined for 47 points-35 in the second half-as Vanderbilt survived a 58 percent shooting performance by Kentucky on Sunday to pull out a 67-65 win over the Wildcats in Memorial Gym.
Byars and Foster combined to make several key plays down the stretch, including two crucial steals by Foster, and an amazing sequence by Byars that gave Vanderbilt the lead.
With just 29 seconds to play and the Commodores down two, UK's Ramel Bradley fouled Byars as he was shooting.
Byars stepped to the line and hit the first, but missed the second. Vandy's Dan Cage tapped the ball back to Byars, who canned about an eight-footer near the edge of the lane to give the Commodores a 66-65 lead.
"It was the biggest play of the game," said Byars. "I missed a free throw, and Dan Cage tapped it out to me. I saw [Kentucky's] Randolph [Morris] down there, and he beat me earlier, so I just wanted to get it up quick," said Byars.
On the ensuing possession, UK's Sheray Thomas lost the ball at midcourt, and Vandy's Foster came up with the ball and was fouled. Foster hit one of two free throws for a two-point Commodore lead, setting up the final possession after a Kentucky timeout.
With nine seconds to play and the length of the court to go, the Wildcats inbounded the ball to Bradley, who drove the length of the court guarded by Byars.
Bradley drove the left side of the floor and cut back to the middle of the lane where he was triple-teamed, and heaved up a prayer that missed. In the ensuing scramble for the ball, time ran out, and the Commodores escaped with their fourth-consecutive win over the Wildcats.
Later, UK coach Tubby Smith lamented missed opportunities, as UK couldn't seem to put Vandy away. The 'Cats 22 turnovers (14 in the second half) and an inability to get key defensive stops contributed to UK's fourth loss in five games.
"We had chances to put the game away, but you have to make stops and take care of the ball," said Smith. "I know I keep talking about it. We came out focused and ready to play, but it only takes a couple of breakdowns to get beat."
Vandy only shot 33 percent in the first half, but were within two points until just a few minutes before halftime. Bobby Perry (11 first-half points) and Lukasz Obrzut (6) posted solid performances in the post for Kentucky, helping the Wildcats put together a run to stretch the UK halftime lead to nine
That's when the Commodores turned things around. Coaches and Tom Richardson urged Byars to step up and take the game to the Wildcats in the second half, and he did.
After shooting 2-for-8 in the first half, Byars scored 21 in the final 20 minutes, and acknowledged hearing his coach's words at the break.
"Coach Stallings told me to pick it up," said Byars. "The team depends on me heavily. It took a while, but the second half is my time."
Vanderbilt alternated between man and zone defense during the second half, and the zone seemed to disrupt the Wildcats' offense, creating three shot-clock violations.
But nothing seemed to stop the 'Cats shots from falling, so Vanderbilt turned up the defensive intensity and the turnovers came. Meanwhile, Foster and Byars combined for seven offensive rebounds, giving the Commodores some extra possessions on a day where Vandy shot just 41 percent.
Despite the rebounding and turnover advantage, Vandy struggled to get over the hump. Every Commodore run was answered by a Wildcat basket, and the clock continued to run down.
That's when Byars took his game up one more level.
As the shot clock ran down, and Vandy's offense seemed to stagnate, Byars received the ball on the baseline in the left corner, and drove, drawing helpside defense by Kentucky's post players.
Undeterred, Byars strong to the basket, missing the shot but drawing the foul and setting up the scene that would decide the game.
This sequence gave Vanderbilt a two-point lead, its first of the game, and put the Wildcats behind the eight-ball.
Foster's steal with nine seconds left seemed to kill the Wildcats' chances, but a missed free throw allowed Kentucky a final shot. The Commodores turned up the intensity another notch, denied the drive, denied the kick-out for a game-winning 3, obscured Bradley's heave, then celebrated as time expired.
Vanderbilt's formula for overcoming nearly 60% shooting: Huge games by the team's two leading scorers, an offensive rebounding margin of eight, and a turnover margin of nine. Stallings said he could never remember winning a game when an opponent shot so well.
But that's just what the Commodores did in taking a giant step toward a first-day bye in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. The win moves the Commodores to 9-5 in conference play, giving [db]Kevin Stallings his first SEC regular-season winning record in his career at Vanderbilt.
More importantly, the victory virtually clinched an NCAA Tournament bid for the Commodores, who now stand No. 29 in RealTimeRPI.com's ratings, and have just regular-season contests at South Carolina and home vs. Arkansas remaining in the regular season.