In a game that will be filed in the "It Wasn't Pretty But..." folder, Kentucky escaped Vanderbilt with a 71-62 win Saturday in the Wildcats' first SEC road game of the season.
Sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein led No. 14 Kentucky (12-3, 2-0 SEC) with 15 points and six rebounds. Freshman guard Aaron Harrison followed with 14 points, while twin brother Andrew Harrison added 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists in a turnover-free performance at point guard.
"I thought Andrew Harrison was terrific today, and we need him to be terrific for our team to elevate," UK coach John Calipari said.
"He's a terrific player. He's reminding me of the process and progress of (former Memphis standout) Tyreke Evans. It just took time. When he gets there, he's going to be outstanding."
Kentucky shot only 43 percent from the field and made only six of 22 attempts from 3-point range, but finished with just 10 turnovers after a shaky start in the game's opening minutes. The Wildcats also held a commanding 41-28 rebounding advantage with freshman forward Julius Randle grabbing 11 in the first half.
“(Kentucky) is a physical team," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "They attack offensive rebounds. Randle is a great offensive rebounder. I thought Cauley-Stein played well for them. Sometimes you watch film and there’s a guy who stands out who you like. He’s that player. You don’t have to make plays for him, and he’ll still get you good production.”
Vanderbilt (8-6, 0-2 SEC) shot 50 percent from the field, but Calipari suggested defense was the difference for the Cats. They forced 16 turnovers, surrendered only six 3-pointers and put the Commodores on the free throw line just 10 times.
"I tell you what we did: we guarded," Calipari said. "And they are a tricky team. They go backdoor. They slip on screens. They run some good actions. They fade big guys, and I thought we did a good job of guarding it."
Kentucky led 30-22 at halftime in a game that fluctuated between three and 10 points for most of the half. The Commodores stayed within striking distance for the entire second half, but could never get any closer than five points.
Vanderbilt center Damian Jones led his team with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Dai-Jon Parker and Kyle Fuller each added 17 points for the Commodores, who got a subpar line from their top player, Rod Odom. He scored only five points and spent most of the game saddled with foul trouble.
* Kentucky leads the series against Vanderbilt 139-46, including a 55-27 mark in Nashville.
* The Wildcats are 28-5 in January games under Calipari.
* UK has recorded 40 or more rebounds in 13 games this season.
* Freshman forward Derek Willis recorded his first career steal.
* UK returns to action Tuesday, Jan. 14, at Arkansas. Tipoff is set for 9:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.