Kentucky Used 25-3 Run To Defeat Vanderbilt 74-52 1/14/03

No. 16 Kentucky (11-3, 3-0) used a 25-3 second-half run and stifling defense to defeat the Commodores (8-6, 1-2) Tuesday night 74-52 in front of a sold-out Memorial Gym. Freshman Mario Moore led the 'Dores in scoring with 17 points on five three-pointers.

Defense wins championships. Kentucky knows that because they have seven National Championships to their credit. When the Wildcats' backs were against the wall, Kentucky turned up the defensive heat and turned an eight point Vanderbilt lead at the half to a 22-point victory.

Vanderbilt came out of the gates shooting the lights out as it buried five of its first six buckets from long range. Three of those three-pointers came from freshman Mario Moore, who ended up scoring a career-high 17 points on the night. The most exciting of which occurred as the shot clock was winding down and Moore used a cross-over dribble to get enough separation from Keith Bogans to launch a three that hit nothing but the bottom of the net. The Memorial crowd erupted as the shot gave VU an 11-point lead.

But, the Commodores' hot shooting pulled the Wildcats out of their zone defense and then the tide began to turn. With Vanderbilt holding a 14-point lead, Kentucky switched to man-to-man and quickly caused three turnovers and cut the lead to seven. But the Commodores maintained composure and finished the half with an eight-point lead 36-28.

This game was the tale of two halves. With UK contesting every pass and trapping at every opportunity, Vanderbilt was having an impossible time getting into its offense. It was this intensity that helped Kentucky to 12 steals in the second half with most of them converted into easy buckets on the other end.
"It was frustrating," according to junior Matt Freije. "We had trouble just completing a single pass. You can't play basketball 45 feet away from the basket."

The costly turnovers by VU helped the 'Cats deliver their knockout punch.
"They just hit us with a big, hard punch, and we didn't respond to it," said head Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings.

The hard punch came from the hot hand of UK's Gerald Fitch. Fitch scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half. The two biggest blows came when Kentucky stretched its lead from seven to 13 on two huge three-pointers by Fitch.
The Commodores would not recover and ended up outscored 46-16 in the second half.

The Commodores hit the road to face rival Tennessee Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. in Knoxville, Tenn.

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