Recap: Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt
New Orleans, LA (Sports Network) - Kedren Johnson's three-point play with just over 90 seconds remaining gave Vanderbilt the lead for good and sent the Commodores to a 71-64 win over top-ranked Kentucky in the championship game of the SEC Tournament.
Vanderbilt (24-10) closed the game on a 16-2 run and captured the SEC tourney crown for just the second time. The first championship came way back in 1951, also against Kentucky.
"Kentucky, they set the bar," said Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings. "They set the bar nationally this year. They set the bar in our league almost every year. They certainly did this year. They have got a great team. So we're proud to have beaten them. Proud to have won an SEC championship."
The Wildcats (32-2) were bidding for a 28th SEC Tournament title, but instead had a 24-game winning streak halted. Kentucky hadn't lost since December 10 -- a 73-72 setback at Indiana on a last-second shot.
Despite Sunday's loss, the Wildcats earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and will play in the South region. Vanderbilt got a No. 5 seed and will open against Harvard in the East.
Kentucky beat Vanderbilt twice during the regular season -- 69-63 in Nashville and 83-74 at Rupp Arena. The Commodores, though, had chances in both games and let it slip away.
It appeared as though Kentucky would prevail in another tight contest Sunday, grabbing a 62-55 advantage with 5:23 remaining after a free throw by Anthony Davis. He missed the second and the Wildcats went ice cold from there.
John Jenkins started the comeback with a pair of free throws and Vandy tied it at 62-62 on a tip-in by Festus Ezeli. After Doron Lamb missed a three-pointer for Kentucky, Johnson was fouled on a layup and hit the subsequent free throw to put Vandy ahead for good.
A Davis free throw made it a two-point game, but the Wildcats just couldn't make a shot and Vanderbilt sealed the contest at the stripe.
Kentucky didn't make a field goal over the final eight minutes and shot just 35.9 percent overall.
"We had our chances, we had our shots, we didn't make them," said Kentucky head coach John Calipari. "You got to give them credit. That game was over and then all of a sudden it's like basket, basket, basket [and] it's anybody's ball game. And they played well down the stretch."
Darius Miller scored 16 points for Kentucky, which had won the last two SEC tourney titles. Terrence Jones contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds in defeat, while Davis finished with 12 points, 10 boards and three blocks.
"I definitely hate the feeling of losing, especially in a championship when we were this close to winning it all, it just hurts," said Davis. "So I hope we can take this loss, learn from it, and have this as motivation going into the [NCAA] Tournament."
Jeffery Taylor led the Commodores with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Jenkins and Ezeli each chipped in 17 points. Vandy hadn't even played for the SEC crown since 1951 and won a tournament for the first time since capturing the 1990 NIT championship.
"When Kentucky made a run, they made a couple of them in the game, we just kept our poise and we battled back and we made key plays down the stretch," Taylor remarked.
Kentucky opened a quick 7-1 lead, but Vanderbilt was undeterred and moved in front with a 10-3 run. Johnson's jumper gave the Commodores their first lead at 11-10.
An Ezeli dunk gave Vandy its biggest advantage of the first half at 26-18, but Kentucky stormed back with a 17-4 run. Stallings was hit with a technical foul during the Wildcats' surge, which ended with Miller's layup for a 35-30 lead.
The Commodores, though, scored seven of the final nine points of the half, sending the teams to the break tied at 37-37.Game Notes
Johnson finished with just six points for Vanderbilt, which shot 43.1 percent overall...The Commodores outscored the Wildcats, 21-12, at the free throw line...Lamb was just 2-of-11 from the field, including 1-for-7 from beyond the arc, and scored 11 points for Kentucky...Vanderbilt beat the top-ranked team for the eighth time, last doing so in 2008 against Tennessee...Kentucky still leads the all-time series, 136-45...The Wildcats' 27 SEC Tournament titles are by far the most. Alabama is next with six...The SEC didn't play a conference tournament from 1953-78.