Wildcats Hang On

Vanderbilt answers deficit but falls in final minutes at No. 12 Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Down as many as 11 in the opening quarter, Vanderbilt chipped its way back and traded the lead multiple times with No. 12 Kentucky before a late fourth-quarter run proved enough for the Wildcats to escape with an 80-73 win Sunday evening inside Memorial Coliseum.

With Vanderbilt leading 59-58 heading to the fourth quarter, neither side gave an inch and the lead never ballooned to more than four until Vanderbilt led 69-65 with 5:04 to go thanks to buckets by Koi Love and Chelsie Hall. From there, the Wildcats answered with a 9-0 run, though, to lead 74-69 with 2:02 to play. While two Hall free throws with 1:06 to go brought Vanderbilt back within three at 74-71, Kentucky continued to take over down the stretch on the way to escaping with the win.

After going up 4-0 in the opening minute, the Commodores were forced to battle back and ran with the 12th-ranked Wildcats throughout the evening with just seven available student-athletes.

Trailing by 10 headed to the second quarter, a six-point Wildcat run put Kentucky up a game-high 16 at 29-13 with 9:15 to go before half. From there, Vanderbilt put together a 24-9 run over the remaining nine minutes to pull within one at 38-37 at the break. Love put an exclamation point on the quarter with a fast-break layup at the buzzer on the way to scoring a career-high 32 points.

Down one at the start of the second half, the two sides traded buckets with five lead changes and four ties throughout the frame before Vanderbilt ultimately took a one-point lead to the fourth. Its lead was built by an 8-1 run that took it from down three at 52-49 to up four at 57-53 with 1:06 to go in the quarter behind six points from Love.

While Vanderbilt shot 40.7 percent from the floor, it went just 2-of-11 from distance while Kentucky knocked down 10-of-21 from three-point range, giving it enough to take the win.

Love’s 32 points were a game high while Hall added 24 points, falling two points short of matching her career high of 26 set Dec. 21, 2017, against Belmont. Yabryon Chambers also matched her career best with 10 points on 5-of-8 from the floor. She led the team in rebounds, finishing one board short of her first double-double.

Kentucky had five finish in double figures with Blair Green’s 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting leading the way. Dre’una Edwards’ also added 17 points while Chasity Patterson had 16. KeKe McKinney and Treasure Hunt rounded out the list with 11 points apiece.

The Commodores will return to action with back-to-back home games this week against Florida and Tennessee. Vanderbilt will first meet the Gators on Thursday at noon in a game rescheduled from Dec. 31 before hosting the Volunteers on Sunday at 2 p.m. Both games are set to air on SEC Network.