NASHVILLE, Tenn. - In a physical contest where neither team seemed to get into a rhythm between the combined 59 fouls called and 73 free throws that were attempted on Sunday, Kentucky was able to overcome a seven-point Vanderbilt lead and deal the Commodores an 80-71 loss in their annual Pink Out game at Memorial Gym.
With just two games remaining before the SEC Tournament in Nashville (March 3-6), Sunday's loss dropped the Commodores (18-9, 9-5 SEC) to fourth in the league standings behind the 19th-ranked Wildcats (20-7, 9-5 SEC), who swept the season series. The top four teams receive first round byes.
Vanderbilt got a combined 45 points from Tiffany Clarke and Christina Foggie, but in the end it was not enough to overcome the Wildcats' pressing defense that turned Vanderbilt over 23 times in the absence of senior guard Jence Rhoads, who missed the game with a sprained right ankle.
"They can't press unless they score and they started scoring a lot, so they pressed a lot," Head Coach Melanie Balcomb said. "We didn't get the job done on the defensive end. We're not going to use Jence as an excuse, if we defend them they can't press all night and put the pressure on Jasmine (Lister) and our guards."
Both teams dealt with foul trouble throughout the game. All five of Vanderbilt's starters finished with four fouls and key reserve Stephanie Holzer fouled out with 6:05 to play. Kentucky was not spared either. The Wildcats had two starters foul out and another finish with four fouls.
The Commodores held a three-point lead at the half that quickly evaporated as Kentucky scored the first seven points of the second half to take a 39-35 lead. The lead was Kentucky's first since the 15:04 mark of the first half when it was 9-7.
Vanderbilt regained the lead at 48-46 after Foggie's third three-pointer with 13:27 to play. Kentucky would regain the lead again, 50-48, with 11:30 to play. The first 9:12 of the second half featured seven ties and three lead changes as both teams battled for position.
However, the lead would not change hands again.
With the score was knotted at 50, Kentucky went on a 10-0 run to take a 60-50 lead with 8:25 to play.
Vanderbilt cut Kentucky's lead to four, 61-57, with 6:49 to play, but Kentucky scored five straight points to go back in front by nine, 66-57, with 5:43 to play. Three of Kentucky's points came off of back-to-back Vanderbilt possessions when Holzer was called for her fifth foul on a charge and then Vanderbilt's bench was whistled for a technical foul after Hannah Tuomi earned her fourth foul going after a rebound on the offensive end. Both of Vanderbilt's technicals have come against UK this season.
Kentucky would extend its lead back to 10 again at 71-61 with 3:05 to play and held off a late rally by the Commodores for their first win at Memorial Gym since Feb. 5, 1986. The Commodores had topped Kentucky 13 straight times at Memorial Gym.
After matching its best home start in school history with a 12-0 start, Vanderbilt has now lost two straight home games for the first time since the 2004-2005 season.
Clarke finished the game with 22 points and 10 rebounds for her third double-double in the past five games. Foggie poured in a career-high 23 points.
Vanderbilt built a 35-32 lead in a sloppy first half that featured 29 fouls and 21 turnovers. Clarke and Foggie scored 27 of Vanderbilt's 35 first-half points and at one point the two had 27 of the team's first 30 points.
Trailing 12-9, Vanderbilt took a seven-point lead, 19-12, on the strength of a 10-0 Vanderbilt run. Foggie scored 10 of Vanderbilt's first 14 points, including two three-pointers.
Kentucky would cut Vanderbilt's lead back to as little as one, 30-29, but were never able to take the lead again in the first half.
Vanderbilt will close its home schedule on Thursday when the Commodores host Florida at 8 p.m. CT. Senior Day festivities will be held after the game, which will be televised by CSS.
Tiffany Clarke posted her third double-double in the past five games, finishing with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
Playing just her second game since returning from injury, Vanderbilt freshman Christina Foggie scored a career-high 23 points.
Vanderbilt had won 13 straight at home against Kentucky.
Senior Jence Rhoads missed the game due to a right ankle sprain and is day-to-day... It is the third game Rhoads has missed this season due to injury ... She missed the first two games of the year due to a strained hamstring.
Vanderbilt used its 10th different starting lineup this season and first since Jan. 30 against Ole Miss.
Vanderbilt suffered back-to-back home losses for the first time since the 2005 season.
Vanderbilt is now 14-2 when it outrebounds its opponent.
Vanderbilt is now 13-1 when it scores at least 70 points.
Vanderbilt is 1-7 when its opponent tops 70 points.