TAMPA, Fla. — Vanderbilt got 27 points from Jordan Wright and trailed by just a point with less than seven minutes to go, but Kentucky pulled away for a 77-71 victory on Friday to advance in the SEC Tournament at AMALIE Arena.
Vanderbilt pulled to 59-58 late, only to see Kentucky go on a 10-2 tear and get some separation. Wright hit a 3-pointer with 1:42 to go, getting the Commodores to 71-66, and then he drained another with 54 seconds on the clock to make it 73-69.
That would be as close as Vanderbilt would get.
Vanderbilt, now 17-16, will wait to find out if it has been invited to play in the National Invitational Tournament, which begins next week.
Kentucky (26-6) moves on to face Tennessee (24-7) in the semifinals Saturday.
Vanderbilt fell in an early 7-2 hole early Friday but scored nine straight to go up 11-7—a run that was capped by a Rodney Chatman steal and layup followed by a Stute layup.
Kentucky went on an emphatic 12-0 run to go up 19-11 before Pippen’s four-point play with 11:13 remaining on the clock. Back-to-back buckets from Tyrin Lawrence kept the Commodores close at 24-20 and then 24-22.
The Commodores went 3:13 without a made field goal but still found themselves in front 29-28 on a Stute 3 with 4:32 to go in the half.
Kentucky swiped momentum right back going into the locker room when Kellan Grady made a runner, Lance Ware stole an inbounds pass and Davion Mintz converted a three-point play all in the span of four seconds. That put the Wildcats ahead 37-33 after 20 minutes.
Vandy scored 14 points from inside the paint in the first half, while the Wildcats finished with a 50-percent shooting clip.
The Commodores began the second half with a 13-2 run to take its largest lead at that point, 46-39, after a tough Pippen basket in the lane.
Vanderbilt wouldn’t hit another field goal for the next 6:36 as the Wildcats went on a 16-1 run to storm ahead 55-47 with 10:51 to go. A Wright 3 at the 10-minute mark finally broke the long drought and had Vandy down just 57-52.
A Liam Robbins dunk off a loose ball, followed by Chatman’s steal and layup, suddenly had the Commodores looking up at a 59-58 deficit. That left Vanderbilt 7:10 on the clock to work with, but it wasn’t enough sand in the hourglass as its postseason run came to an end.
TyTy Washington scored 25 to lead Kentucky, while Oscar Tshiebwe had 14 rebounds and 12 points.
- Vanderbilt is now 42-59 in SEC Tournament history. The Commodores have only made the championship game twice, in 1951 and 2012, and won in each instance.
- The Commodores last won three games at the SEC Tournament in 2012 when they won three and the title.
- Vandy is now 9-4 when Chatman plays this season.
- Pippen Jr. (1,507) is now 14th on Vanderbilt’s all-time scoring list. Barry Goheen (1,509) is 13th.
- Pippen Jr. now has the most made free throws (474) in Vanderbilt history.
- Pippen Jr. has 666 points this season, the fourth-most in a single Vanderbilt season and the third-most by a junior in a single Vanderbilt season.
- Pippen could still become the first SEC player to average at least 20 points per game in consecutive seasons since Ronnie Henderson of LSU did so from 1994-96.
- Pippen joined Barry Goheen as the only players in Vanderbilt history with at least 1,500 career points and at least 300 career assists.
- Wright has now started 38 straight games for Vanderbilt.
- Trey Thomas had played in 57 straight games for the Commodores before missing Friday’s game due to injury.
- The Commodores are now 47-153 all-time against Kentucky, 4-5 on a neutral court and 5-5 in the SEC Tournament matchups.
- The Commodores are now 4-12 when trailing at halftime and 15-8 when shooting at least 40 percent.
- Attendance on Friday was announced as 17,132.