14th-ranked Wildcats meet Commodores in SEC fray

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Updated: 1/11 11:36 am

Nashville, TN (SportsNetwork.com) - The 14th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats hit the road in SEC action this weekend, as they take on the Vanderbilt Commodores at Memorial Gym on Saturday afternoon.

John Calipari has himself another very young team in Lexington. Despite the youth, the squad is highly talented and enters this contest with a stellar 11-3 overall record. The Wildcats bring a three-game win streak with them to Nashville, including a huge win over defending national champion Louisville (73-66) to close out the 2013 calendar year and then opening the 2014 portion of their schedule with an SEC-opening 85-63 blasting of Mississippi State.

Kevin Stallings' Commodores are simply treading water with an 8-5 overall record. Vanderbilt has lost two of its last three games, including a 68-63 loss at Alabama to begin league play.

The Commodores won the last meeting with the Wildcats, a 64-48 decision in March of last season. However, Kentucky still holds a significant lead in the all-time series at 138-46.

The Wildcats started slowly, hitting just 37.1 percent from the floor in the first half against Mississippi State, trailing by three points at the break (40-37). Kentucky made up for it after intermission however, shooting a scalding 65.4 percent over the final 20 minutes to run away from the Bulldogs. Freshman James Young was masterful in the game, finishing with a double-double consisting of 26 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomores Willie Cauley Stein and Alex Polythress added 12 points apiece. Freshman star Julius Randle tacked on only eight points in the win, but grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.

Kentucky is averaging an impressive 81.1 ppg this season, doing so on .479 shooting. The team is also enjoying a +12.6 rebounding margin, grabbing 44.1 boards per game. The freshman quartet of Randle, Young and the Harrison twins is exciting, and is counted on for the majority of the team's scoring output. Randle has been a dominant force in the low post, averaging team-highs with 17.4 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. Young is next in line at 14.6 ppg and leads the team with 32 3-pointers. Aaron Harrison checks in at 14.0 ppg, followed by Andrew Harrison and his 10.9 ppg.

The numbers on the year for Vanderbilt are skewed at this point. The team comes in averaging a modest 70.2 ppg on a healthy .465 shooting, but leading scorer Eric McClellan and his 14.3 ppg are no longer in the mix as he has been dismissed from the team for a violation of university academic policy. Going forward, Vanderbilt will rely even more on the trio of Rod Odom (13.8 ppg), Damian Jones (10.7 ppg) and Kyle Fuller (10.0 ppg).

Vanderbilt didn't find its rhythm early on and trailed Alabama by 12 points at the half. Despite heating up after the break and converting 51.7 percent from the floor, the Commodores were unable to did themselves out of the hole, despite a 22-9 run late to make a game of it in Tuscaloosa. Odom had a huge game in defeat, finishing with a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double. Jones poured in 16 points in support, while Fuller posted 15 points.

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