NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The scrappy Vanderbilt Commodores tried, but the Goliath that is the Kentucky Wildcats was just too much.
The short-handed Commodores used a 2-3 zone to slow the game and stay within striking distance, but Kentucky pulled away midway through the second half and coasted to a 71-62 victory at Memorial Gymnasium in a Southeastern Conference game on Saturday.
Forward Willie Cauley-Stein led 14th-ranked Kentucky with 15 points, while guard Aaron Harrison had 14 and his twin, Andrew, added 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists for the Wildcats, who are now 12-3 and 2-0 in the SEC.
It may not have been the prettiest win, but Cauley-Stein felt today showed progress for the Wildcats, who are the youngest team in the country according to stats guru Ken Pomeroy.
"That's been one of the biggest (criticisms) this year. The word is that we're not a good team, that we have selfish guys but the last couple of days in practice we've been getting closer... and (today) it showed that we really do have good guys," said Cauley-Sten, who added six rebounds, two steals and a block.
Vanderbilt freshman center Damian Jones scored 18 points, with guards Kyle Fuller and Dai-Jon Parker each adding 17. Neither Fuller nor Parker came off the floor, and Jones played 36 minutes.
Vanderbilt (8-6, 0-2 SEC) trailed 30-22 at halftime, even though forward Rod Odom, the Commodores' leading scorer, was shelved with three fouls with 7:22 left in the half.
Odom picked up his fourth with 17:46 left, and yet somehow, the Commodores, with only seven scholarship players, trailed by only five with 16:15 left against a team stocked with more McDonald's All-Americans than coach John Calipari knows what to do with.
"It really hurt to have Rod in foul trouble," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said." I'm not saying we would have won the game, obviously, but that really saddled us."
After Fuller's layup got the Commodores that close, Calipari called time out. From there, Kentucky seemed to start pulling away, scoring five points in a row on Aaron Harrison's 3-pointer and forward Alex Poythress' layup to push the score to 53-39 with 9:26 left.
Poythress' dunk at 5:39 put Kentucky up 60-47, but the sophomore was whistled for a technical foul for delay of game. Two technical foul free throws by Fuller and a 3-pointer by Parker at 5:20 brought Vanderbilt within eight, as the crowd roared the loudest it had all day.
But a free throw by guard James Young, two more by Andrew Harrison, and an open-court steal and break-away dunk by the 7-foot Cauley-Stein put Kentucky up 65-52 with 2:30 left, which effectively ended it.
In addition to depth issues, the Commodores might have had a better shot were it not for 18 turnovers.
"We just didn't play well enough, and we don't have a great margin (for error), and it kind of showed up in a few places because we had a few guys who didn't play like they're capable of playing," Stallings said.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats killed it on the offensive glass, garnering 18 offensive rebounds on 35 missed shots. It was the biggest reason that UK, which shot just 42.6 percent compared to Vanderbilt's 50 percent, left Nashville with a win.
Stallings is a man-to-man coach, but lack depth has forced Vanderbilt to use far more zone than the veteran coach usually cares to play.
"For the most part, I though (the zone) was great. It was those second-chance points they kept getting that killed us," Fuller said.
Calipari seemed mildly pleased with his team, which has now won four-straight games.
"We're getting better. We've got a long way to go. We are what we are right now," Calipari said. "Andrew Harrison is finally starting to get it."
NOTES: This was Vanderbilt's first home game without starting PG Eric McClellan, who led the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game. McClellan was dismissed from the team earlier in the week. ... Kentucky started four freshmen -- G Aaron Harrison, G Andrew Harrison, F Julius Randle and G James Young -- along with sophomore F Willie Cauley-Stein. ... Kentucky's victory was its 2,123rd, which is the most in college basketball history. ... The Wildcats improved to 139-46 all-time against Vanderbilt. ... Ironically, the only Tennessean to see action in Saturday's game was Kentucky F Alex Poythress, who had nine points and four rebounds.