The road to invincibility and later on winning championships remains clear for Kentucky following a 65-57 win over Vanderbilt, but it once again proved that even though the SEC isn’t highly regarded for its competitiveness and top to bottom quality, it’s going to be far from easy completing this trial without a few more bumps in the road.
Vanderbilt have won just one SEC game this season. A team without the size and depth of Kentucky. Underwhelming in every position and every way compared to the Wildcats, who did have a couple of scares to kick off their conference play, but that was followed by two wins over Missouri and Alabama that once again demonstrated how big the gaps are between those who have and those who have nothing in this conference.
Kentucky could have finished this game off in the first half, but the way the Harrison twins run the game is sometimes confusing. They are exception talents and have a knack to make big shots when they’re needed, but their decision making often leads to the exact opposite of what’s needed at the moment. Dakari Johnson and Willie Cauley-Stein looked like they’re playing with kids against them, but the two weren’t used enough, and after a few stops the Commodores got the confidence they needed to make this game a bit closer than it should have been.
Aaron Harrison was the one who sealed the game for Kentucky, leading the team with 14 points, nine of them coming late in the game, when it felt like Vanderbilt’s 3-point shooting was going to overcome all the advantages their opponents have. Not hitting shots from the line (21-of-32) was once again a very big issue for a team that could really have a much easier time, but find ways to complicate things for them each time.
Vanderbilt were in this game for one reason only – their 3-point shooting in the second half. Riley LaChance with 16 points and going 3-of-4 from beyond the arc, and Matthew Fisher-Davis coming off the bench with four tre’s, scoring 13 points. That, and Kentucky once again getting complacent. They seem to get lazy offensively when they feel the game is in their hands, and get stunned for a minute or two when the opposition actually fights back.
After easy wins over Missouri and Alabama, it was probably good to get a wake up call. Even a small, unappreciated and unremarkable team like Vanderbilt can cause them problems if this immensely talented and still undefeated team doesn’t take their opponents seriously. The SEC isn’t the most difficult conference in the nation, and in this vacuum Kentucky have risen once again thanks to incredible recruiting and players that didn’t leave college as soon as expected. And yet every time it seems surprising to learn that no one is handing them the conference championship on a golden platter.