JOE BIDDLE: ‘Cats claw Commodores at Rupp

Basketball Sports Generic

Vanderbilt’s basketball team had high hopes for this season.

They were young and untested in spots, but they were talented and ranked in the preseason top 25 to start the season. Some experts opined they were good enough to make the Final Four.

They has three seven footers, including 7-1 Luke Kornet, whose father Frank played for Vanderbilt in the 1980s before playing in the NBA.

Frank and Nashville TV anchor/wife Traci were in Rupp Arena with other relatives, but they didn’t get the results they had hoped for as Vandy fell, 76-57.

Luke played for his father at Liberty Christian in Lantana, Texas, near Dallas.

He never dreamed Division I basketball was in his future.

“I was slow and unathletic. I was so behind physically,’’ Luke told reporters. “The person I was as a senior and junior in high school – I was not capable of playing D-1 basketball.’’

He grew seven inches as a senior and has grown two more inches since arriving at Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings found a hidden jewel.

He called Kornet the team’s best rebounder, best defensive player, best shot-blocker, and best communicator.

The Commodores trailed early and never made a game of it as they left Rupp Arena 11-8 overall and 3-4 in the SEC. Kentucky jumped to 15-4 overall and 5-2 in SEC play.

Kentucky ruled in the paint early and often, outscoring Vanderbilt 12-0 there with 9:07 left in the first half. Clarksville’s Alex Poythress put up 14 first half points, hitting seven of his nine shots and finished with 16 points.

Guard Tyler Ulis led the Wildcats with 21 points while Jamal Murray added 18. Calipari’s team made 64 percent of its shots.

The Commodores are still looking to defeat a ranked team.

Stallings watched his team lose to its fifth ranked team when No. 23 Kentucky beat the Commodores at Rupp Arena Saturday afternoon.

Previously they had lost to No. 5 Kansas, 70-63 on the road, 69-67 at No. 25 Baylor and 68-55 at No. 14 Purdue, Stallings’ alma mater. Inside the SEC the Commodores lost to No. 22 South Carolina, 69-65.

Kentucky didn’t do anything to help Vanderbilt get its game back.

Coach John Calipari’s saw his record move to 86-2 against unranked teams in Rupp Arena after his team beat the Commodores to move to 15-4 overall, 5-2 inside the league.

The ‘Cats led 37-27 at halftime and toyed with the Commodores in the second half.

The Commodores have dropped to No. 53 in the NCAA RPI rankings, one step ahead of No. 54 MTSU.

They came into Rupp Arena with a three-game win streak against Auburn, Alabama and Tennessee — three teams known more for their football than hoops.

It was not the homecoming the Kornet family hoped for, but Luke Kornet will have more success in the future than even he could ever imagine when he was in high school.

Joe Biddle is a sports columnist. He is a member of the Tennessee Sports Writers Association’s Hall of Fame.

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