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Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein dunks during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Vanderbilt at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein dunks during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Vanderbilt at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

GARY GRAVES, AP Sports Writer

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) – Willie Cauley-Stein scored 20 points, and his two crucial blocks and key rebound in the final 34 seconds helped Kentucky outlast Vanderbilt 74-70 Wednesday night for its first win without injured star center Nerlens Noel.

Cauley-Stein, a 7-foot freshman manning the post for Kentucky (18-8, 9-4 Southeastern Conference) with Noel sidelined, blocked attempts by Kyle Fuller and Kedren Johnson 9 seconds apart before grabbing Johnson’s missed 3-pointer with 17 seconds left and drawing a foul.

Cauley-Stein made 1 of 2 free throws for 74-67 lead that offset Sheldon Moats’ 3 for Vanderbilt (10-15, 4-9) with 3 seconds remaining. Cauley-Stein finished 8 of 10 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds to provide Kentucky a sorely-needed victory after the Wildcats were shellacked 88-58 Saturday at Tennessee in their first game since Noel sustained a season-ending left knee injury at Florida on Feb. 12.

Noel’s first public appearance since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament boosted the morale of the Wildcats, who had to withstand another Commodores rally.

Trailing 51-41 with 14:46 remaining, Vanderbilt’s 18-10 run over the next 10-plus minutes got the Commodores within 61-59. Julius Mays answered with a 3-pointer to give Kentucky a five-point lead before Cauley-Stein added a basket leading up to his defensive heroics.

Archie Goodwin added 16 points and Ryan Harrow 12 for the Wildcats.

Johnson had 17 points and Rod Odum 16 for Vanderbilt.

Fuller added 14 and Henderson 13 for Commodores, who made 10 of 22 (45.5 percent) from beyond the arc. That still wasn’t enough to overcome the Wildcats, who shot 29 of 56 overall and outscored Vanderbilt 38-24 in the paint.

Kentucky faced huge pressure to win for many reasons, mostly to atone for its embarrassing 88-58 loss to Tennessee, its first game without Noel. The general ugliness of that outing resulted in Calipari questioning the coachability of a couple of unnamed Wildcats before backtracking earlier this week.

Then there’s the matter of Kentucky’s postseason prospects, which were shaky before Noel’s injury. Losing him and then the first contest badly without him created urgency to regroup, especially with Big Blue Nation becoming nervous.

Many hurdles remain for Kentucky before next month’s SEC tournament, but this game showed the Wildcats’ pride and composure. They didn’t force shots and involved everybody on offense, and there were several times on defense that teammates battled for loose balls.

Most important, the Wildcats didn’t give the Commodores an opening like the last meeting in Nashville on Jan. 10. Noel’s controversial late basket helped Kentucky overcome blowing a 16-point lead and escape with a 60-58 win, and it demonstrated the luxury of having two big men.

He and Cauley-Stein combined for seven blocks that night, leaving Vanderbilt to try and offset things from the outside. Noel’s injury eight days ago changed everything about Kentucky and especially inside, where 7-footer Cauley-Stein must provide the presence.

Facing a huge obstacle in Cauley-Stein, but nothing like the 6-10 Noel, Vanderbilt saw opportunities for a different outcome, especially after outrebounding the Wildcats 42-37 the first time around.

Kentucky wasn’t having it, spotting Vanderbilt a 6-4 lead before taking control with efficiency that provided a 42-34 halftime lead. A 21-7 run over 8 minutes, 6 seconds sparked the Wildcats to a 25-13 lead and 19-of-31 shooting (61 percent) helped offset Odom’s 4-of-4 shooting from 3-point range.

The Wildcats’ guard play also improved as Goodwin, Harrow and Mays combined for 10 assists with just one of Kentucky’s three first-half turnovers. Cauley-Stein and Goodwin each scored 12 while Harrow added 10 as Kentucky outscored Vanderbilt 24-8 inside.

Besides his offensive re-emerging after two scoreless efforts, Harrow showed emotion and hustle. He yelled after driving for a layup and foul, then rebounded his missed free throw and fed Kyle Wiltjer for a 3-pointer and 42-30 lead.

KENTUCKY 74, VANDERBILT 70

VANDERBILT (10-15): Odom 6-13 0-2 16, Henderson 5-7 3-4 13, Johnson 4-10 7-8 17, Bright 2-6 0-0 5, Parker 0-3 1-2 1, Fuller 5-10 2-3 14, Jeter 1-2 1-2 4, Moats 0-1 0-1 0. Totals 23-52 14-22 70.

KENTUCKY (18-8): Cauley-Stein 8-10 4-7 20, Poythress 3-9 1-3 7, Goodwin 7-14 2-4 16, Harrow 6-9 0-1 12, Mays 2-7 3-4 9, Hood 0-0 0-0 0, Polson 1-2 0-0 3, Wiltjer 2-5 2-2 7. Totals 29-56 12-21 74.

Halftime_Kentucky 42-34. 3-Point Goals_Vanderbilt 10-22 (Odom 4-6, Fuller 2-3, Johnson 2-4, Jeter 1-2, Bright 1-5, Moats 0-1, Parker 0-1), Kentucky 4-12 (Mays 2-6, Polson 1-1, Wiltjer 1-2, Poythress 0-1, Goodwin 0-1, Harrow 0-1). Fouled Out_Harrow. Rebounds_Vanderbilt 30 (Parker 7), Kentucky 36 (Cauley-Stein 7). Assists_Vanderbilt 13 (Johnson 7), Kentucky 14 (Mays 6). Total Fouls_Vanderbilt 18, Kentucky 16. Technicals_Jeter, Harrow. A_22,887.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

10 Responses to Cauley-Stein, Kentucky survive Vanderbilt 74-70

  • jcc says:

    Willie C-S can be a dominant player with the correct work a playing time. He has know shown that he can dominate. Maybe we can get Coach Cal to let him play some WR in the red zone. Picture Willie going to the corner of the end zone on a fade being covered by a 5’11″ corner. LOL, come on Cal get with Stoops and make this happen…ROTFLMAO.

  • Lori Metcalf says:

    I loved it when they showed the Cats in the hallway before they came into the gym. They were dancing and pushing and shoving like they always do. Then the camera found Noel and the crowd roared.

    The new video during introductions was good, too. I hope the players remember all the things they said on it. It’s that team mentality — “we are family” — that is going to carry them through the rest of the year.

  • Thank You ” TEAM “, all I ever wanted to see was Intensity and Aggressive Play when your on the Court. And, I CAN SAY, “YOU ALL GAVE THAT” ! Thank You,,,Heck, even Archie drove 3 feet into the Paint and drove it back out, for a Better Play…that was a Learned Task, thanks Archie.

  • King Ghidora says:

    I was very impressed with the team. They played with heart and effort and intelligence. If they play that way all the time they can still be a really good team.

    What I was disgusted by was the way the game was called. I’m getting very tired of watching the SEC give visiting teams every call in Rupp. It’s bad enough on the road but to do it on UK’s home floor is beyond ridiculous. I could name dozens of incidents that were just sickeningly bad calls. The block made by WCS where he got all ball but was called for a foul. The foul on Harrow who never even touched the player he supposedly fouled. Two people with their elbows in the back of Alex and two people holding his arms down with no call being made. I don’t mind refs that let teams play. But they should call the game the same both ways. There should have been technicals called on the bench clearing. A Vanderbilt player tried 3 times to tackle WCS before grabbing him by the knee and twisting him down. He could have ended that kid’s career with a move like that.

    For all you that are going to say I see things from one perspective I’ll be glad to point out exact times for these events. If that isn’t enough I’ll post video on YouTube showing what I said was true.

    The SEC wants a conference that is balanced. It’s simple math really. You have UK on one side and the rest of the league on the other. They all want UK brought down. UK is all alone in that conference. It stinks to high heaven. And the SEC hired announcers are off the charts when it comes to backing up whatever the refs do to UK. Even when they see clearly that the calls are bad they say very little about it. And Joe Dean Jr. is a disgrace to his father’s name. He makes me want to gag when I hear him use the phrases his dad used. His dad was a man of honor. Jr. is not. He’s far from it. He needs to get “stuffareenoed” a few times.

    I’ll say it again. UK needs to leave the SEC. Everyone else is moving on from their conference. UK should join the crowd. The SEC will never get their foot off the neck of UK. They have been dominated by the Cats for too long and they all want revenge. And when it comes time to vote on who runs the conference and how they run it all those other teams vote to bring UK down.

    Again, please. Anyone who doubts what I say just ask about a play. I’ll post the video and you can see for yourself. Vandy would never have gotten back in that game if not for the refs giving them every break in the world. That’s not right. It’s almost enough to make me stop watching basketball after nearly 50 years of being a Cat fan. What they’re doing to UK is pathetic.

  • Oh, we all saw it, King ! I think we’ve just come to expect it…not to rehash those specific plays, but this was the worst and the most obvious missed called game I’ve seen all year…and how do you get ejected with no technical, we should at least got the Ball, geesh…and the NO TEN SECOND CALL, when the clock was even down to 25 seconds, that was Blatant ! Of course I could keep going…” Never Doubt THE KING “, he has Knowledge and First Hand experience…

    • King Ghidora says:

      If you watch that missed 10 second call you can see the clock hit 25 before the whistle is blown. There were so many bad calls in that game it wasn’t even funny. I’ve come to expect it to bro. And that’s just wrong. They’re plain old stealing games from UK. The league isn’t about providing entertainment by making games close. It isn’t about keeping the most fans interested by making all the teams seem relevant. It’s about who wins and who doesn’t win. In all the games I ever played there was exactly one where I knew we got cheated. All the other games were called as fair as possible. That never happens with UK now. There’s too much money involved. Money is the reason sports get corrupted. I don’t want boxing anymore. I don’t think many people do because of the blatant cheating involved. I’d hate to have to quit watching basketball for the same reason. And at some point I will. I quit watching baseball completely and I was a big time fan for many years. I got tired of the strikes and the split seasons, etc.. By the year there was no World Series I had already been gone from being a fan for about 12 years. I had a good friend who played for the Reds and became their pitching coach (Don Gullett) but I wouldn’t go the whole time he was a coach. I did go to one game when I was stuck in Cincy for the day and had nothing to do. I felt guilty about it for a year. I can walk away and forget something if I want. When it stops becoming an actual sport what’s the point of watching? And college basketball is approaching that level IMO. I’ll look at it like I didn’t leave basketball but rather basketball left me.

      • Larry Pup says:

        King I was only able to see the second half last night and saw the foul they called on WCS where he got all ball, and Dean said WCS got him with the body. Looked like a good block to me. I’m still reeling from the UT loss when it comes to officiating. While UK got smoked, I thought Shows and company did a number on UK. What was your opinion?

  • LindaS says:

    For a while I thought Doug Show-boat was calling the game. I don’t know what has kept Cal from pulling his hair out. We all know Kentucky has bulls eyes on their back but it is getting a little ridiculous. These young men have to practice and go to school daily. I think the refs need to take classes each week and practice. And I will give the classes and run them through their paces. I’ll even buy them glasses so they can see what is going on. I really think they should be able to use the monitor more often then they do. Some things are just so blatantly wrong.
    Now, My Boys showed some spunk last night. They played the way I knew they could. Of course, towards the end I was throwing myself on the floor because I was getting so riled up.
    Cali the dog is going to have to learn it is not play time during a game. Maybe once I get her a UK dog collar she will under stand. I wonder if Cal knows my dog is named after him? (Ali too)

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