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February 20, 2013

Vandy rally falls short in Lexington

LEXINGTON, KY -- Down 13 midway through the second half, Vanderbilt went to a 2-3 zone and nearly caught Kentucky in the closing minute at Rupp Arena. But in the end, a career performance by Willie Cauley-Stein proved too much for the Commodores to overcome, as VU fell 74-70.

Playing only their second game without injured star forward Nerlins Noel, the pressure was on Cauley-Stein to fill the gap. In the end, the 7-foot freshman did everything that was needed to overcome torrid 3-point shooting from a Vanderbilt team that came to Lexington as a 10-point underdog. Cauley-Stein finished with a career-high 20 points, missing just two of his 10 shots, and also led his team with seven rebounds and four blocks.

Vanderbilt was led by four players: Kedren Johnson (17 points), Rod Odom (16), Kyle Fuller (14) and Josh Henderson (13).

Archie Goodwin added 16 for UK, while Ryan Harrow had 12.

Behind the dominant play of Cauley-Stein, UK went into halftime with a 42-34 lead. The Wildcats shot a torrid 62 percent from the field, mostly coming from point blank range. The Commodores hung on only because of their 6-for-10 3-point shooting.

A layup by Fuller at the 13 minute mark of the second half brought VU within 52-45, but the Commodores then went nearly three minutes without scoring. After a string of empty possessions by both teams, back-to-back layups by Cauley-Stein and Archie Goodwin stretched UK's lead to 56-45.

But then it was the Wildcats' turn to go cold. Vanderbilt then went on a 10-2 run, capped by a driving layup by Johnson, bringing VU within 58-55 with five minutes left. The comfortable mood at blue-clad Rupp Arena began to get noticeably restless.

But five seconds later, VU blew their chance to tie the game. Before the Commodores could get back on defense, Alex Poythress took the ensuing in-bounds pass and went coast to coast, dunking over Shelby Moats. After making the and-one, UK had immediately stretched its lead back to six, 61-55.

Then it was VU's time to burn UK: Breaking free from the UK press, Johnson found Henderson uncovered under the basket for an uncontested layup.

But again, UK answered. A long 3 by Julius Mays with 3:23 left pushed the lead back to two possessions. And after Odom missed an ensuing 3, the foul line became the difference for Kentucky in the closing minutes.

Vanderbilt returns home to face Mississippi State on Saturday, one of just two remaining home games on its schedule.

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