AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Vanderbilt guard Matthew Fisher-Davis has a simple approach to handling a sellout crowd wearing mostly Kentucky blue in the Commodores’ home gym.
Fisher-Davis tied his career-high with 20 points, and Vanderbilt upset No. 16 Kentucky 74-62 on Saturday for its third straight victory and first over the Wildcats at Memorial Gym since 2011. This was Vanderbilt’s first sellout since January 2014 — the last time the Commodores hosted Kentucky.
The sophomore guard said the crowd of 14,326 was great.
“The fans were loud and great and into it the entire game,” Fisher-Davis said. “There were times we were tired out there, and they gave us the energy to keep pushing forward. I think their energy helped to wear down Kentucky.”
And about those Wildcat fans?
“I didn’t even hear people who were wearing blue,” Fisher-Davis said.
The Commodores (18-11, 10-6) have won six of their last eight to move closer to the top of the Southeastern Conference standings with two games left in the regular season. Vanderbilt came into this game tied with LSU for fourth place and is just a loss behind Kentucky for the league lead.
Jeff Roberson scored 16 points, twice scoring just before the shot clock expired in the second half, Damian Jones added 15 and Wade Baldwin IV had 14. Vanderbilt had lost three straight to Kentucky, including a 76-57 loss at Rupp Arena on Jan. 23.
“It felt good, especially since they’re at the top of the conference,” Roberson said.
Kentucky (21-8, 11-5) lost for the second time in three games despite freshman Jamal Murray scoring 33 points. Tyler Ulis added 12 points despite going 5 of 20, and coach John Calipari sent most of his bench to the locker room with 34 seconds left anticipating fans rushing the court.
“You tell the guys to go to the locker room. Go. Beat it,” Calipari said. “I’m not going to get anybody hurt. I look at the coach, ‘Peace brother. Good win.’ And I run.”
Vanderbilt fans did just that to celebrate with the Commodores who have beaten consecutive ranked opponents after losing 13 straight against Top 25 competition.
Kentucky missed its final nine shots and went scoreless over the final 3:47 of a game that pitted the SEC’s two best shooting teams and stingiest defenses. The Wildcats shot very well in the first half but hit only 7 of 26 (26.9 percent) in the second. That’s when Vanderbilt took over on a court they play so very well on this season.
The Wildcats never led by more than eight points but were up 45-38 on a basket by Isaiah Briscoe.
Vanderbilt answered with a 13-2 run capped by consecutive 3-pointers by Fisher-Davis putting the Commodores up 51-47 with 14:38 left and prompting Calipari to take a timeout. Fisher-Davis’ first 3 gave Vandy its first lead since midway through the first half.
Kentucky last got within 58-56 on a jumper by Briscoe midway through the half before going cold. Vanderbilt padded the lead at the free throw line in the final minute before the celebration began. Calipari credited the Commodores’ 7-footers Jones and Luke Kornet, who had 11 rebounds, for outplaying his big men.
“When it got rough, they outfought us,” Calipari said.
The Wildcats led 39-36 at halftime with Murray scoring 21 points in his 18 minutes.
Kentucky: Senior Alex Poythress, who went to high school in nearby Clarksville, Tennessee, started in his second game back from an injured right knee. But he fouled out with 6:26 left without scoring a point in 16 minutes. … Nobody scored off the bench for Kentucky. … This was the Wildcats’ first visit to Memorial Gym since January 2014.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores had lost 13 straight games against Top 25 teams since upsetting then-No. 1 Kentucky in the SEC Tournament final in 2012 before knocking off then-No. 8 Texas A&M on Feb. 4. The Commodores wrap up the regular season visiting Texas A&M on March 5. … The Commodores have won seven straight at home and improved to 13-2 this season at Memorial. … Vandy had a 19-11 edge in second-chance points.
RUSHING THE COURT: Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said he knew exactly what Calipari was doing, trying to protect his players. Stallings said he’d be happier if fans waited until the Wildcats cleared the floor.
MURRAY’S HALF: The Kentucky freshman had 21 points in the first half, the most by any Wildcat this season. That’s the most points in the first half during Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky. Murray was 8 of 11, including 4 of 5 beyond the arc. He grabbed six rebounds. When Murray knocked down a 3 with 2:23 left, that gave him 21 points and tied the Kentucky freshman record set by Brandon Knight with his 14th 20-point game this season.
Kentucky: Visits Florida on Tuesday.
Vanderbilt: Hosts Tennessee on Tuesday.