Kentucky Basketball: Cats fight off pesky Vandy advance to SEC semis vs Vols

Keion Brooks Jr. of the Kentucky Wildcats. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Keion Brooks Jr. of the Kentucky Wildcats. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /
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Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari was not enthusiastic weeks ago about potentially playing Vanderbilt three weeks ago, but his Wildcats were up to the challenge and fought off the pesky Commodores 77-71 to advance to the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinals.

As expected Vanderbilt went toe-to-toe with Kentucky playing physical and draining three-pointers. And of course, it featured an opponent having the game of his life against us.

This time it was Jordan Wright who made 10 of 12 field goals including a stunning 5 for 6 from 3-point range.

Yet while Joran was lighting it up the difference was Kentucky’s ability to stymie Scottie Pippen Jr. who finished with only 10 points connecting on just 2 of 17 field goals. In the two regular-season games he went off for 33 and 32 points.

Kentucky basketball slips past Vandy and into SEC tourney semifinals

The game featured big-time runs by both teams, and each time the other was able to compose themselves and fight back.

The fight is the keyword and takeaway from this game.

We know the fight is in this team no matter what and when called upon they know how to punch back.

Calipari was asked after the game about what he saw from his team.

"“Hats off to Vandy. The third game in three nights and they never stopped and played till he horn. We thought we could get into their legs at some point in the second half but it didn’t happen. Wright making those deep threes and giving them a chance. But you know we fought and I thought Jacob (Toppin) and Davion (Mintz) played unbelievably well. Looks like Jacob may have a broken nose I don’t know but he played with it and that shows a lot.”"

The coach is now 11-1 in tournament quarterfinals with the lone defeat coming to Vandy back in 2012.

Big Blue is seeking their 32nd SEC Tournament crown, while the rest of the teams combined have a total of 29.

No player optimizes the word fight like Oscar Tshiwebwe.

He had to fight for every ball all night as Vandy pounded on him with player-after-player, but in the end, he rang up 12 points, 14 rebounds, and rejected five Commodore shots. That is a career-high in blocks and his 26th double-double this year which ties the single-season mark set by Kentucky great Dan Issel in 1969-70.

TyTy Washington overcame a lackluster start to explode for a game-high 25 points, 3 rebounds, an assist, and a steal.

Helping his teammates achieve success was Sahvir Wheeler who fought relentlessly all night earning 8 points, dishing out 11 assists while turning it over four times.

Say what you want this team doesn’t have quit in them.

Here are my four quick takeaways,