LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Freshman Anthony Davis scored a
career-high 28 points on 10-of-11 shooting, and No. 1 Kentucky beat
Vanderbilt 83-74 on Saturday to win the Southeastern Conference
regular season title for the 45th time.
The Wildcats (28-1, 14-0) have won 51 straight at home and are
on a 20-game winning streak overall. Kentucky trailed at halftime,
however, and needed a late surge to put away the scrappy
Davis, who had 11 rebounds and six blocks, hit an 18-foot jumper
as the shot clock expired with 1:06 left. Terrence Jones added a
dunk, and Davis blocked Lance Goulbourne's shot with 31 seconds to
go to put the game away.
Jeffery Taylor scored 19 points for Vanderbilt (20-9, 9-5), and
John Jenkins added 15 of his 18 points in the second half.
Kentucky's fellow freshmen also chipped in. Point guard Marquis
Teague scored 16 points, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had eight
points and eight rebounds before fouling out for the Wildcats, who
trailed at halftime at home for just the second time this year.
That proved to be no big deal, thanks to Davis, one of the
leading candidates for national player of the year.
Davis' play put Kentucky in position to finish a perfect record
in the SEC with a home game Thursday night against Georgia and on
the road against Florida next Sunday.
Only two teams since 1956 have finished league play undefeated -
Kentucky in 1996 and 2003. The 1996 team went on to win a national
title, and the '03 group lost in the regional finals.
This team, which starts three freshmen and two sophomores,
expects to play for a national title in April and hasn't lost since
a buzzer-beat shot at Indiana on Dec. 10.
Vanderbilt proved to be a big test, taking a 37-36 halftime lead
before Davis scored the first two baskets of the second half as two
fans held up a sign in the student section that said "Big Blue
Jenkins, the reigning SEC player of the week, hit a 3 that tied
it at 45, but Kentucky took a 66-56 lead with 7:47 left sparked by
Wildcats senior Darius Miller, who hit a 3 and added a jumper that
gave the Wildcats their first double-digit lead.
Vanderbilt, which starts four seniors who had won at every venue
in the SEC over their four years except Rupp Arena, had one more
Taylor scored on a drive, and Jenkins, a junior, hit consecutive
3-pointers and one of two free throws that cut it to 66-65 with
4:22 left. Davis answered with a jumper as the shot clock expired.
Teague added one of two free throws and Jones made two more that
gave the Wildcats a 71-65 lead with 2:42 to go. The Commodores
managed to foul out Kidd-Gilchrist but missed free throws in
Taylor missed two, and Festus Ezeli, who finished with 15
points, missed one of two with 2:30 left as the Commodores went 5
of 11 in the second half.
Miller answered with a floater. After Jenkins drove for an
uncontested layup, Davis hit the 18-footer that gave Kentucky a
75-68 lead with 1:06 left as the Wildcats finished with a flourish
thanks to Jones and Davis' big block.
Kentucky led by as many as eight in the first half, but the
Commodores used a 9-0 run capped by three free throws by Brad
Tinsley to take a 36-34 lead early in the first half. Davis hit two
free throws, but Tinsley hit one more with 3.2 seconds left that
let the Commodores join North Carolina as the only teams to have a
halftime lead at Rupp Arena this season.
Just like against the Tar Heels, Kentucky made sure it didn't