LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — After No. 21 Kentucky rallied to force overtime against Vanderbilt, guard Quade Green wasn't surprised he was able to split through two defenders to make the winning basket.
"I just saw an open layup," said Green, whose layup with five seconds left in overtime gave the Wildcats an 83-81 win over the Commodores on Tuesday night.
"I saw the big man was at the top of the key, so he wasn't guarding the row."
Kentucky (17-5, 6-3 Southeastern Conference) overcame a 57-46 deficit with 9 ½ minutes left to tie it on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's two free throws with three seconds left. The freshman then opened OT with a jumper, PJ Washington made two free throws and Kevin Knox hit a 3-pointer for a 78-74 lead.
Vanderbilt (8-14, 2-7) rallied for a 79-78 edge before Knox's three-point play, which was answered by Clevon Brown's tying layup with nine seconds left. After Green found open space for the winning layup, Payton Willis fired a 3-pointer that bounced off the rim and sparked a dog pile at midcourt for the Wildcats.
In the middle of it all was Green, the former starting point guard who missed several games with a sore back and has recently been a backup to Gilgeous-Alexander.
"I don't know how many seconds were on the clock when he got that layup, but how about his poise?" asked assistant coach Kenny Payne, who spoke afterward in place of coach John Calipari.
"There's a lot of other things he could have done, and he had the poise to drive that ball to the basket and roll the ball over somebody's head and lay it in the basket."
The win comes a day after Kentucky returned to the Top 25 following its win at then-No. 7 West Virginia in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. But the Wildcats needed to do everything right and hope for some bad luck by Vanderbilt to make it happen.
The Commodores complied by missing opportunities to seal the game in regulation.
Guard Riley LaChance, whose three 3-pointers helped build a second-half lead, missed a free throw with 19 seconds left that could have made it a four-point game. Green made a layup, but Jeff Roberson made one of two from the line, opening the door for Gilgeous-Alexander to make two free throws with three seconds left and force OT.
"This game really hurts," Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said. "We took some of their runs and responded and had a great opportunity to win this game in the last three minutes. It just wasn't meant to be there at the end."
Gilgeous-Alexander scored a career-high 30 points for Kentucky, while Knox had 18 and Green 12.
Jeff Roberson had 23 points for the Commodores, who looked to string together consecutive wins for the first time since late last month. Vanderbilt was coming off a win over TCU in the Challenge.
Vanderbilt: Once again, the Commodores positioned themselves to beat the Wildcats but couldn't close the deal. Saben Lee's foul that led to Knox's three-point play was especially costly. It wasted a game in which they led by 14 and then again by 11 and seemed headed toward a season split.
Kentucky: The Wildcats got off the mat to gut out another win. They went cold for stretches, looked beaten at other times and were outrebounded 37-35. Yet they found the resolve just as they did in upsetting then-No. 15 West Virginia on Saturday.
Vanderbilt: Visits No. 11 Auburn on Saturday night.
Kentucky: Visits Missouri on Saturday.