LEXINGTON, Ky. - No. 19 Kentucky erased a 10-point Vanderbilt lead by going on a 30-5 run to close the first half and never let Vanderbilt get closer than seven en route to a 78-68 victory over the Commodores Sunday at Memorial Coliseum.
The Commodores (13-7, 4-3 SEC) began the game 7of-13 from the floor, but ended the first half and began the second half going 11 minutes and 26 seconds between field goals. The drought helped Kentucky (15-4, 4-2 SEC) build a 47-24 advantage with 16:43 to play.
Vanderbilt whittled away at Kentucky's lead and was able to pull back within seven, 75-68, with 17 seconds to play, but by then the ship had sailed.
Vanderbilt had four players score in double figures, led by Christina Foggie, who scored all 15 of her points in the second half. Jence Rhoads finished with 14 points and Stephanie Holzer added 13 points after fouling out in 16 minutes. Rhoads and Holzer also paced the team with six rebounds.
Holzer's presence -- or lack there of -- because of foul trouble was a large factor in the game. Much of Vanderbilt's success early in the game, which led to a 10-point lead, came with Holzer in the game. But Kentucky was able to exploit the Commodores on the boards after Holzer, who scored nine of Vanderbilt's first 14 points, picked up her second foul with 10:52 to play in the first half and remained on the bench the duration of the frame.
"We had a great lead and then Steph (Holzer) gets two fouls, and we were dominating them inside because they don't have a post to defend her," Head Coach Melanie Balcomb said. "She gets two silly fouls and they pick up their pressure and started trapping us and we just started playing back on our heels.
"We let them attack us. We became very passive on offense and no one stepped up and wanted the ball."
Kentucky outrebounded Vanderbilt 41-29 and got 24 of its rebounds on the offensive end. The Wildcats also made 33-of-48 free throw attempts compared to just 21-of-29 by Vanderbilt. The Commodores committed 21 turnovers.
Like at Tennessee, where Vanderbilt trailed by as many as 22, the Commodores missed opportunities to get back in the game much sooner than the final minute.
Vanderbilt pulled within 11 with 6:27 to play and were within nine, 68-59, with 3:09 to play after Rhoads hit a tough 18-foot jumper. The Commodores got a steal on the next possession and were then whistled for a moving screen by Jordan Coleman. Shortly after the call, Coach Balcomb was whistled for her first technical foul of the year.
Despite the technical, Vanderbilt pulled back within nine on its next possession with a basket by Hannah Tuomi and got within eight, 71-63, following two free throws by Rhoads with 1:00 to play.
The Commodores, which had won 13 straight in the series with Kentucky has now lost two straight in Lexington for the first time since the 1990-91 season.
Vanderbilt's game at Kentucky was its third straight against a ranked opponent as Vanderbilt fell to 1-3 on the year against ranked teams. The Commodores are now 2-7 on the road.
The Commodores faced their largest halftime deficit of the season, trailing by 15. At the start of the second half, Vanderbilt was unable to chip away at Kentucky's lead as the Wildcats scored eight of the first 10 points of the half to take a 23-point lead, 47-24, with 16:38 to play. The lead was Kentucky's largest of the game.
The first half was a game of runs as the Commodores built a 10-point lead with 10:26 to play on the strength of a 17-2 run. However, Kentucky closed the half on a 30-5 run of its own to take a 37-22 lead at the half.
The Commodores built their lead by making 7-of-13 shots to start the game, while Kentucky hit just 2-of-15 attempts to begin the game.
The tables would turn in Kentucky's favor as the Wildcats hit 10-of-17 shots to close the half and Vanderbilt made just 2-of-8 attempts, while finishing the half with nine miscues. Kentucky also made 12-of-18 free throw attempts and Vanderbilt made just 3-of-7. Neither team was able to find the basket to close the half. Vanderbilt went the last 6:31 of the half without a field goal, while Kentucky went the last 6:51 without a field goal.
Vanderbilt will have its SEC bye on Thursday before hosting Ole Miss at 2 p.m. next Sunday. The game is Jam the Gym where all tickets cost $1. Vanderbilt is also hosting a mini-clinic and autograph session for fans following the game.
On if she was happy about the comeback Vanderbilt made in the second half...
"No, I'm not happy with any of it. They made one big run and if that's enough for us to be in the situation we are - we told them they're a team of runs, we told them we have to check out, we told them a lot of things and didn't get a lot of things. Our effort wasn't good enough. We gave them 24 offensive rebounds, and even if a team's not shooting well, if they just keep shooting eventually they're going to loosen up and make shots. So, we didn't do anything to help ourselves in that game. It's a given to fight back and that's what we did in the second half. That should be a given."
On the technical foul called in the second half...
"I'm going to take the high road on the whole thing. I don't even think I could explain it. We have a lot of tough rules now with the referees so I'm just going to say I'm sorry and I can't comment on it. I would love to, but I can't."
On Kentucky's freshmen and if they met her expectations... "Yeah, I actually liked them all on film. I wrote them all up on the board and talked about them a lot. I think they've gotten better. You can see their stats overall and you see their stats in conference play and three of their freshmen just keep moving up their stats. We were very prepared and knew who their freshmen were and what they did and we didn't take it away. I like their freshmen a lot. I thought they played very well tonight, very composed, and had a huge impact on the game."
On what Vanderbilt wasn't doing effectively while Kentucky made their big run in the first half...
"We had a great lead and then Stephanie (Holzer) gets two fouls, and we were dominating them inside because they don't have the post to defend us in there. She gets two silly fouls and now they pick up their pressure and their defense and start trapping us and being more aggressive. Then we just started playing back on our heels. We let them attack us. You either attack people or you get attacked. We became very passive on offense and nobody stepped up and wanted the ball. They would trap Jence (Rhoads) and get the ball out of her hands and nobody else looked like they wanted it. Defensively, it was check out, check out, check out which was the number one key to this team and this game. For six minutes, we didn't get shots off. We shot 42 percent at halftime and it wasn't that many turnovers, we couldn't even get shots off. That's playing on your heels, playing intimidated by the pressure they were putting on us."