Skip to content

Willie Cauley-Stein key as Kentucky outlasts Vanderbilt, was a team dodgeball game to thank?

Feb 20, 2013, 10:34 PM EDT

Willie Cauley-Stein AP

The torn ACL of star freshman Nerlens Noel made Kentucky a team destined for the NIT in the minds of many. That may still be the case, but Wednesday night in a close 74-70 win over Vanderbilt at Rupp Arena, they found an interior presence late that helped them to a win.

Willie Cauley-Stein had blocks on consecutive possessions in the final minute, looking every bit as capable as Noel around the rim to stop two Vanderbilt possessions and preserve a victory. Cauley-Stein finished with 20 points, seven rebounds, and three big blocks on a night that Kentucky needed some things to go right to fend off a Vanderbilt team that they had trouble with earlier in the season even when Noel was in the lineup.

In addition to Cauley-Stein having his biggest game of the season, guards Archie Goodwin and Ryan Harrow both played well. They both scored in double figures and looked to have done a complete 180-degree pivot since going scoreless in his last two games. He had 12 points and four assists, but perhaps most importantly no turnovers.

Part of that is a credit to the fact that Kentucky did not look as tentative and tense as it did in its first game without Noel, a blowout loss to Tennessee. Coach John Calipari said that the team played dodgeball to lighten the mood on Tuesday after a team walk-through. Was it part of the solution? [Here's video of the dodgeball game]

There still remain areas of concern, though.

Kentucky played well in the first half, leading by eight at the break. The problem was, that energy in the first half made for a team that struggled to keep up for much of the second. The defense has to continue to adapt

But I’m still not sold on Kentucky falling on the right side of the bubble on Selection Sunday. The struggles they saw tonight at home likely won’t make for a win against Missouri, or on the road against Arkansas, or at home against Florida without Noel. Without a true signature win, John Calipari and the Wildcats could be NIT-bound.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Latest Posts
  1. 2014-2015 Season Preview: College Basketball’s Top 13 Dunkers (VIDEOS)

    Oct 21, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    Michael Qualls, Arkansas (Getty Images) Michael Qualls, Arkansas (Getty Images)

    These are the players to keep an eye on if you like seeing aerial acrobatics.

  2. Kansas State loses redshirt freshman to transfer

    Oct 20, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT

    La Salle v Kansas State Getty Images

    Kansas State is losing a redshirt freshman to transfer.

  3. Virginia lands four-star guard from 2016 class

    Oct 20, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

    (adidas) (adidas)

    Virginia got a very skilled guard in the 2016 class.

  4. Florida lands three-star 2015 wing

    Oct 20, 2014, 9:15 PM EDT

    Billy Donovan AP

    Florida landed an in-state Class of 2015 wing to make it a four-man class.

  5. Memphis grabs a commitment from a 2016 guard

    Oct 20, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT

    Josh Pastner AP

    Memphis found a 2016 guard to join center Nick Marshall in the recruiting class.

  6. Report: SMU big man has work to do to be eligible for season

    Oct 20, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    Markus Kennedy AP

    SMU could be in trouble if a second-team all-league pick is ruled ineligible.

  7. Washington adds two forwards in 2015 class

    Oct 20, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    Indian Hills Community College Indian Hills Community College

    Lorenzo Romar now has a six-man recruiting class for 2015.

  8. Top 25 Countdown: No. 15 Oklahoma Sooners

    Oct 20, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    Buddy Hield (AP Photo) Buddy Hield (AP Photo)

    Oklahoma has a chance to be the second-best team in the Big 12, especially if a key player receives a waiver.

  9. St. Joseph’s loses another front court piece for the 2014-15 season

    Oct 20, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    Phil Martelli AP

    The Hawks will have a thin front court this season.

  10. 2014-2015 Season Preview: Which new coaching hires will succeed?

    Oct 20, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Steve Wojciechowski AP

    Five new hires that should thrive, and five who may end up struggling.

  11. Report: Former Oklahoma State guard leaves his junior college

    Oct 20, 2014, 2:09 PM EDT

    Stevie Clark, Jevon Taylor AP

    Stevie Clark was dismissed from Oklahoma State after a pair of bizarre incidents involving the police.

  12. Maryland lands commitment from junior college point guard

    Oct 20, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT

    Mark Turgeon

    Jaylen Brantley is Maryland’s first commitment in the class.

  13. No longer supplementary pieces, two Texans will lead the way at Weber State

    Oct 20, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    Randy Rahe AP

    After riding the coattails of a pair of Californians, Weber State’s focus on recruiting the state of Texas will pay off this season.

  14. Former NBA guard says Emmanuel Mudiay ‘handled himself well’ in first game in China

    Oct 20, 2014, 10:39 AM EDT

    unnamed-1

    Mudiay has now played two preseason games as a professional.

  15. 2014-2015 Season Preview: Weber State won’t lack for challengers in Big Sky

    Oct 20, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    Weber State's Joel Bolomboy (AP Photo) AP

    Weber State will be the preseason favorites, but Northern Arizona, Sacramento State and Eastern Washington will lead a group of challengers capable of pushing the reigning champs.

  16. Highlights from San Francisco’s ‘Hilltop Hoopsfest’ event (VIDEO)

    Oct 19, 2014, 10:57 PM EDT

    Rex Walters AP

    Junior forward Mark Tollefsen may be one of the best dunkers in America.