Jan. 13-- NASHVILLE, Tenn.-Remember all the John Calipari talk about fight, will to win and his Kentucky players putting a priority on possession-by-possession execution rather than trying to be cute or go Hollywood?
Those admonitions came to life at Vanderbilt on Saturday.
UK needed those qualities, as Calipari all but predicted Friday when he called trips to Vandy's famed and quirky Memorial Gym "always a hard game for us."
It was again as the 74-67 final score suggested. And never mind that Vandy was the only Southeastern Conference team with an overall losing record. The Commodores came into the game with a Ratings Percentage Index of No. 163. That was the poorest RPI of any SEC team. The next worst was Mississippi at a relatively stratospheric No. 107.
Never mind the numbers. UK and Vandy played a competitive game that saw no double-digit leads and the outcome decided in the anything-could-happen final four minutes.
Tied at 59-59, Kevin Knox put Kentucky ahead for good.
Remember Calipari saying he shouldn't settle for jumpers? Knox didn't.
He scored in the lane while being fouled, the resulting three-point play surely putting a smile on Calipari's face while putting Kentucky ahead 62-59.
"He's been telling me this whole season to be aggressive and get to the basket," Knox said, "and I'm starting to get it now."
On the next possession, Knox made a layup. Those baskets started a streak in which Kentucky scored or got to the foul line on eight of its final nine trips down-court to seal the victory.
"I told guys on the bench after the first one, I'm going to keep going at him," Calipari said. "Whether we lose or not, he's got to figure this out."
Knox scored nine of his 17 points in the final 3:48.
When asked why he went to Knox, which UK did in the early season, Calipari said, "You're talking about a 6-9 guy who should attack around that goal."
Both teams were shaky down the stretch.
Hamidou Diallo gave Vandy life by twice fouling in the final 31 seconds, the first on a 3-point shot with Kentucky ahead 70-66.
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