NASHVILLE — Tyrese Maxey scored 25 points, and the 12th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats rallied from their biggest halftime deficit of the season to beat Vanderbilt 78-64 Tuesday night.
With the win, Kentucky (19-5, 9-2) keeps a piece of the lead atop the Southeastern Conference standings with Auburn and LSU. The Wildcats also won their eighth straight over Vanderbilt, though this was the fifth time in this streak that they’ve had to rally from a double-digit deficit. This time, they trailed by as much as 14 in the first half and were down 36-27 at halftime.
Immanuel Quickley also had 18 points, Nick Richards had 12 and Ashton Hagans finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds in coach John Calipari’s 400th career game at Kentucky.
Vanderbilt (9-15, 1-10) was looking to make Kentucky the second straight ranked team to come into Memorial Gym and lose within the past week after the Commodores upset then-No. 18 LSU.
Saben Lee led Vanderbilt with 20 points. Dylan Disu had 12 points and 10 rebounds, Scotty Pippen Jr. had 13 and Maxwell Evans 10.
Kentucky looked like a different team in the second half. The Wildcats finally took their first lead on a Maxey layup with 11:16 left at 48-46 during a 24-4 run. Richards’ dunk capped the spurt with Kentucky up 59-48 with 6:11 to go.
The Commodores pulled within 62-57 with 4:17 left after Jordan Wright stole the ball on the inbounds play. Quickley answered with consecutive 3s to push Kentucky’s lead back to double digits.
Vanderbilt ranks fourth in the SEC shooting (33%) from 3-point range, and the Commodores opened with Pippen hitting a 3 to put the Commodores ahead. Four others made at least one 3 as Vanderbilt shot better outside the arc than Kentucky from the floor. Lee hit Vanderbilt’s eighth 3 of the half to put the Commodores up 34-20, and he added a pair of free throws with 3:51 to match that 14-point lead.
Vanderbilt then went cold and didn’t score again the rest of the half. Kentucky wasn’t much better. Maxey’s jumper with 3:12 to go the Wildcats’ last field goal of the half, but Quickley made three free throws with 35.4 seconds left for a 36-27 halftime deficit that was Kentucky’s largest this season.
Kentucky: The Wildcats came in second in the SEC and 15th in the country defending against the 3, allowing opponents to shoot 28.8% outside the arc. They just couldn’t slow down Vanderbilt in the first half as the ‘Dores shot 47.1% (8 of 17). That changed in the second half as the Wildcats held Vandy to just 3 of 11 from 3-point range. ... The Wildcats outrebounded Vandy 43-32 and also had a 40-20 scoring edge in the paint.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores are playing without the SEC’s leading scorer in Aaron Nesmith, lost after the SEC opener, with Clevon Brown also out with injury. Stackhouse has been getting production from everyone on his roster, including a 3-pointer from walk-on Braelee Albert in building that big lead.
Kentucky hosts Ole Miss on Saturday.
Vanderbilt starts a two-game road swing Saturday at Florida.