Kentucky hosts Vanderbilt in SEC betting showdown

By: Stephen Nover | Monday, February 28, 2011

Vandy looks for a season sweep of Kentucky Tuesday night on ESPN.

There’s no denying Kentucky’s outstanding talent. But it’s a stretch to call the youthful Wildcats a great team as evidenced by an 8-6 SEC mark.

However, when playing in Rupp Arena the Wildcats are outstanding.

Kentucky puts its 33-game home winning streak on the line Tuesday night at 6 PT on ESPN hosting Vanderbilt. If the Wildcats defeat the Commodores they will set a school record for consecutive victories at Rupp Arena.

The Wildcats were in danger of dropping out of the Top 25, but defeated SEC East Division-leading Florida, 76-68, at home this past Saturday as 8 ½-point favorites. The victory pushed Kentucky’s record to 14-0 at Rupp Arena this season, 5-3-1 ATS versus ‘lined’ opponents. Kentucky is ranked 23rd in the latest ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.

The combined 144 went ‘over’ the 137 ½-point total. It’s the fifth straight time Kentucky has gone ‘over’ the total.

Darius Miller produced the best game of his career for the Wildcats against Florida scoring 24 points with five rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Brandon Knight contributed 16 points and six assists with no turnovers as the Wildcats shot 51.7 percent from the floor in giving John Calipari his 500th career victory.

Knight is third in scoring in the SEC averaging 17.7 points per game. Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins leads the conference in scoring at 19.6 points.

Terrence Jones of Kentucky is the SEC’s top rebounder at 9.1 boards per game and is the No. 4 scoring leader at 17.6 points, but it is Miller who has been hot for the Wildcats reaching double digit scoring in each of the last four games.

Miller is averaging 18 points and 5.5 rebounds during this stretch, shooting 53.2 percent from the field and also connecting on 12 of 24 three-pointers.

Knight, Jones and Miller are all outstanding talents. Calipari, though, has been using strictly a six-man rotation. The rest of Kentucky’s reserves have combined for only 12 points in 14 conference games.

The Wildcats are shooting 39.9 percent from three-point range, which ranks 15th in the country. They are averaging 77.6 points per game, good for 20th in the nation.

Vanderbilt is the 24th-highest scoring team averaging 77.1 points. The Commodores also are ninth-best in defending against 3-pointers holding foes to 28.9 percent from beyond the arc. Vanderbilt ranks 20th in the latest coaches poll.

The Commodores have covered in six of their last seven games, including rolling past LSU, 90-69, this past Saturday as 8 ½-point favorites. The combined 159 points flew ‘over’ the 133 ½-point total.

Vanderbilt, 21-7 and 9-5 in the SEC, held the Tigers to 25 percent shooting from the field in the second half to overcome a 43-41 halftime deficit. Jeffery Taylor led the Commodores with 20 points with Jenkins adding 17.

The Commodores trail Florida by two games in the SEC’s East Division with two games left. Vanderbilt closes its regular season hosting Florida on Saturday. The Commodores are 14-2 at home. Kentucky finishes its regular season at Tennessee on Sunday.

Junior center Festus Ezeli has emerged as a key in Vanderbilt’s interior defense with 18 blocks in his past three games.

It’s Jenkins, however, who the Wildcats are most concerned about. The sophomore guard had scored 20 or more points in six consecutive games until falling short versus LSU. Jenkins led the nation in scoring as a high school senior.

Jenkins had 32 points in the Commodores’ 81-77 home win against the Wildcats on Feb. 12. The Commodores were one-point favorites with the combined 158 points going ‘over’ the 146 ½-point total.

Jenkins lit the Wildcats up making 11 of 17 shots from the floor, including hitting six 3-pointers. Vanderbilt sank 11 of 20 3-point shots in the victory.

Vanderbilt is 7-5 on the road, 6-2-1 ATS against ‘board’ teams. Kentucky has failed to cover in six of its last nine games.

Tuesday's ESPN broadcast is preceded by the Fighting Illini, Boilermakers battle at Purdue's Mackey Arena.

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