Young Dores Continuing to Grow

Vandy fights to the end in loss at No. 13 Kentucky

by Chad Bishop



LEXINGTON, Ky. — For more than 17 1/2 minutes Wednesday, Vanderbilt held a lead inside historic Rupp Arena.

That was no small feat for a short-handed team battling No. 13 Kentucky, a crowd of more than 20,000 and the cloud of a now 27-game losing streak against Southeastern Conference competition hanging over the Commodores’ heads.

But with less than nine minutes to play in regulation, Vandy was up 52-51 in game that could, over time, turn into a major confidence booster moving forward.

“Our team is growing, man,” Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “I have no complaints about how we competed tonight.”

The Wildcats pulled away down the stretch for a 71-62 victory while Vandy went the final 5:40 without a made field goal. Kentucky’s experience and depth played a major key in the waning moments.

Coming off a 26-point defeat at South Carolina and 15-point setback to Alabama, however, Wednesday’s result seemed like a major step forward for the Commodores.

“I just feel like every game we’ve gotten better, whether it be from an overall standpoint or a certain aspect,” Vanderbilt freshman Dylan Disu said. “Tonight it was definitely coming out strong all together – and also not getting hit first in the mouth as (Stackhouse) has talked about a lot lately. I think we’ve grown a lot.”

Disu was a show-stopper for much of the evening – only late foul trouble slowed the stretch forward down. He had 13 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks, a steal and an assist.

Junior Saben Lee complimented his efforts with 21 points and freshman Scotty Pippen Jr., and junior Maxwell Evans combined foe 22. Braelee Albert, Ejike Obinna and Matthew Moyer all contributed in big ways as well.

“We play five freshmen,” Pippen said on how he’s seen his teammates grow. “Games like this, close games like this against teams that are older really helps us mature.

“Although it looks like a loss in the record, that game shows us how good we are and gives us confidence.”

Vanderbilt led 35-28 at halftime thanks to a last-second Evans 3 before the break. Disu and Lee combined for 20 points in the first 20 minutes and the Dores (8-12, 0-7 SEC) forced eight UK turnovers and had 16 points in the paint.



Lee extended the lead to 10 at 40-30 with a triple from the top of the key early in the second half and later Evans drilled a triple from the left corner making it 43-36 and momentarily quieting the Rupp Arena crowd.

The Commodores were in complete control at the point.

Kentucky (16-4, 6-1 SEC) began to roar back and took the lead for good on a pair of free throws with 8:33 left. Disu’s final 3 of the evening – a bucket that turned out to be Vanderbilt’s last of the game – made it 60-58. That would be as close as the Dores would get.

“Obviously in the second half we just hit a lull offensively, they had a little bit of a rhythm and made some tough shots,” Stackhouse said. “Just seemed like everything that was kind of marginal didn’t go in our favor today. That happens when you’re on the road. You got to be prepared for that.

“Hopefully we continue to continue to grow. We just have to do it a little bit better, a little bit harder – especially when we’re on the road as opposed to playing at home.”



Vandy returns to Memorial Gymnasium at 7:30 p.m. Saturday to host Florida (12-8, 4-3 SEC) and if it plays the type of game it did Wednesday it could come closer to notching that first league win of the season.

The Commodores appear to certainly be headed in thatp right direction.

“There was a real glaze over everybody’s eyes a couple weeks ago when Aaron (Nesmith) went out (with a foot injury),” Stackhouse said. “Now they’re starting to see that, ‘OK, we still can do some things with the group that we have.’ It’s going to take a big effort from everybody night in and night out. We’re going to have to make shots, but if we can defend the way that we’re capable of it will give us a chance to hang around and eventually maybe string together some games for us this year.

“Our guys are fighting, they’re learning. I think they’re taking their approach seriously and that’s all you can ask for a young group like this. They’ll get better and we’ll have better days ahead.”

Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for Follow him @MrChadBishop.

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