Wed, 08 Feb 2023

Kentucky aims to keep winning streak going vs. short-handed Vandy

Field Level Media
24 Jan 2023, 11:19 GMT+10

Kentucky will look to extend its winning streak to four games when it heads south to meet Vanderbilt in Southeastern Conference play on Tuesday in Nashville, Tenn.

The Wildcats (13-6, 4-3 SEC) have knocked off then-No. 5 Tennessee, Georgia and Texas AM since an embarrassing, Quadrant 4 loss to South Carolina at home on Jan. 10.

One big change since then? Starting point guard Sahvir Wheeler's diminished role. Wheeler didn't play against the Vols before logging a combined 19 minutes in the next two games.

That left Cason Wallace -- who didn't play in the South Carolina loss due to injury -- to run the point and freed up minutes for Antonio Reeves and CJ Fredrick. Reeves' 23 points against Texas AM were a season high.

Those weren't the only changes.

Kentucky coach John Calipari decided on a new policy before the Tennessee win: confiscate phones and other electronic devices the night before a game and instead focus on bonding. The Wildcats stayed at a hotel before Saturday's home win over Texas AM, something they'd not done before.

"You go and have a great night's sleep and you're not looking at anything," Calipari said after Saturday's victory.

Still, the most important Wildcat remains reigning National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe, who on Monday was named the SEC Player of the Week on the strength of a 37-point, 24-rebound game against Georgia.

Vanderbilt (10-9, 3-3) lost all three meetings with Kentucky last season, though the presence of 7-footer Liam Robbins in the latter two games helped the Commodores keep the final margin to single digits.

But Robbins -- who leads Vanderbilt in scoring (13.2 points per game), rebounding (5.9 boards per game), blocks (2.9 per game) and field-goal percentage (54.8) -- will miss Tuesday's game due to a foot injury.

Robbins didn't play in Saturday's game at Georgia, either. The Commodores won without him, 85-82, thanks to five scorers in double figures, led by 19 points from point guard Ezra Manjon.

Manjon went 8 of 12 from the floor while adding two assists and two steals without turning the ball over in 27 minutes.

"Ezra, he ran the show," Commodores coach Jerry Stackhouse said. "All the minutes that he played, all the decisions that he made, to do all of that without a turnover was a pretty big feat but I thought his pace and his control and how he defended was a key to the victory tonight as well."

The Commodores will also be without freshman forward Lee Dort, who was also out Saturday due to injury. That leaves Quentin Millora-Brown (296 minutes this season) as the team's only available player over 6-foot-8 who has logged meaningful minutes.

--Field Level Media

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