GARY B. GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Most satisfying about Kentucky’s thorough victory over Vanderbilt was doing so a week after a loss at Auburn left the 23rd-ranked Wildcats looking shaky in many areas.
Their mission now is maintaining their solid performance through even more challenges.
Tyler Ulis scored 21 points, Jamal Murray added 18 and Kentucky shot 64 percent in the second half to cruise past Vanderbilt 76-57 on Saturday. The Wildcats not only earned their second straight win since blowing a double-digit lead in that 75-70 loss to the Tigers, they were complete in nearly facet.
The Wildcats (15-4, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) led throughout thanks to strong shooting, finishing at 55 percent from the field. Ulis’ scoring was balanced, with 11 of his points coming during a second half in which Kentucky led by as many as 23. He finished 9 of 13 from the field with two 3-pointers and five assists in 34 minutes.
Ulis was happier that it was part of a team effort.
“I think we got a lot better today,” Ulis said. “Everybody was talking on offense and talking on defense. We just went out there and fought.”
Murray was 7 of 13 from the field including 3 of 6 from long range. Alex Poythress got Kentucky started in both halves for 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting with many coming inside.
Kentucky held Vanderbilt (11-8, 3-4) to 32 percent shooting and 33 percent from behind the arc halting the Commodores’ three-game winning streak. Vanderbilt entered the contest having made 29 of 62 3-pointers in its last three games.
Kentucky controlled the paint 34-18 while finishing even with Vanderbilt on the boards 32-32. The Wildcats rolled despite shooting just six free throws, making four.
“I thought we really guarded,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “I thought our execution offensively was pretty good.”
Damian Jones had 13 points and Jeff Roberson added 12 for Vanderbilt, which made 20 of 25 free throws. None of it mattered.
“We just got outplayed in pretty much every facet today,” Commodores coach Kevin Stallings said.
Kentucky followed up Thursday’s win at Arkansas by meeting another challenge against a Commodores squad that appeared headed in the right direction after starting 0-3 in league play.
Vanderbilt had sought a statement win to go along with its resurgence and presented multiple threats, from the 7-foot duo of Luke Kornet and Damian Jones to a potent perimeter shooting game 41 percent from long range.
Neither were factors in a shooting performance almost as cold as outside temperatures in the mid-20s at tipoff.
Poythress seemed determined to do his part inside early despite giving away several inches, muscling inside for layups along with a layup. He scored six straight points to ignite Kentucky’s 18-13 run coming out of the break for a 55-40 lead that wasn’t threatened.
After last weekend, that’s progress.
“We just started focusing more on defense when we got big leads,” Poythress said. “You can’t be up 10 and be like, ‘We’re good.’ We’ve still got to play defense like we did tonight.”
The blizzard that dumped at least a foot of snow in the region on Friday and Saturday didn’t stop 22,975 from attending the Wildcats’ 31st straight home win. Not that snow would deter a fan base that has turned out in bad weather before and during games. “These knuckleheads figured out how to get here,” said Calipari, who often refers to Big Blue Nation as crazy. “I looked up at (Section) 202 or whatever that corner is and it’s packed. Are you kidding me? You’ve got to be crazy. No one’s left their house. There’s no bread on the shelves. There’s no milk. There’s no eggs. And (22,975) figured out how to get here.”
Vanderbilt: The Commodores arrived two days early to get ahead of a snowstorm that dumped a foot of snow in the city but fell to 7-62 all-time in Lexington. The Commodores haven’t won at Rupp Arena since 2007.
Kentucky: Derek Willis was quiet offensively with seven points but led the Wildcats with nine rebounds. … Ulis posted his seventh 20-point game this season.
Vanderbilt hosts Florida on Tuesday.
Kentucky hosts Missouri on Wednesday.
Kornet 2-8 2-2 7, Roberson 3-6 4-4 12, Jones 5-7 3-6 13, Baldwin IV 1-9 5-6 7, LaChance 1-5 0-0 3, Justice 0-3 0-0 0, Toye 1-1 3-4 5, Fisher-Davis 1-4 0-0 3, Josephs 0-0 0-0 0, Sehic 0-2 2-2 2, Cressler 1-2 1-1 3, Henderson 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 16-50 20-25 57.
Poythress 8-10 0-0 16, Willis 2-8 2-2 7, Ulis 9-13 1-1 21, Briscoe 3-8 0-0 6, Murray 7-13 1-1 18, Lee 3-5 0-0 6, Labissiere 0-1 0-0 0, Matthews 1-2 0-2 2, Floreal 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 33-60 4-6 76.
Halftime_Kentucky 37-27. 3-Point Goals_Vanderbilt 5-15 (Roberson 2-3, Kornet 1-3, Fisher-Davis 1-3, LaChance 1-3, Cressler 0-1, Justice 0-1, Baldwin IV 0-1), Kentucky 6-19 (Murray 3-6, Ulis 2-4, Willis 1-6, Poythress 0-1, Briscoe 0-1, Labissiere 0-1). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Vanderbilt 32 (Jones 9), Kentucky 32 (Willis 9). Assists_Vanderbilt 8 (Baldwin IV, Kornet 2), Kentucky 12 (Ulis 5). Total Fouls_Vanderbilt 10, Kentucky 19. A_22,975.