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Feb 5, 2024 1:50 am

No. 10 Kentucky faces Vanderbilt in search of answers

Rob Dillingham

Rob Dillingham is forecasted to be a one-and-done college player who is selected among the top 10 picks in the 2024 NBA Draft.

The Kentucky freshman guard is looking the part as he aims to help the No. 10 Wildcats end their funk when they face Vanderbilt in Southeastern Conference play on Tuesday night at Nashville.

Dillingham established career highs of 35 points and six 3-pointers in Saturday’s 103-92 loss to Tennessee. He made 14 of 20 shots from the floor but couldn’t prevent the Wildcats (15-6, 5-4 SEC) from losing for the third time in four games.

Kentucky never led in the contest despite Dillingham’s huge night.

“It was just like we couldn’t win anything,” Dillingham said. “That’s what we got to learn and get better at. We go out there and we come to play but we’re not competing. So, we got to learn to get the little plays and do the gritty stuff to win.”

Dillingham scored 20 points in Kentucky’s 94-91 overtime loss to visiting Florida on Wednesday and has joined Antonio Reeves as the leaders of the offense.

Reeves leads the Wildcats in scoring (19.5 points) per game and 3-point baskets (54), while Dillingham ranks second in scoring at 15.3 and third with 38 treys.

The major problem for Kentucky against the Volunteers on Saturday came on the defensive end. Though the Wildcats limited Tennessee star Dalton Knecht to 16 points, they allowed a season worst for points.

“Well, first off, Tennessee is a really good team and they played really well,” said Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard, who scored 16 points. “They didn’t miss many shots. But that’s what the SEC is. That’s what we go against every time out on the court, we get everyone’s best shot.”

Vanderbilt (6-15, 1-7) hasn’t been providing too many stern tests but did end a seven-game losing streak on Saturday by notching a 68-61 home win over Missouri.

The victory was just the third for the Commodores since mid-November.

Vanderbilt’s previous five losses were each by double digits.

“I’m really proud of our guys to continue to battle — the adversity, all of the noise, all the things on the outside — to just stand within themselves and stand together as a family and stand together as brothers,” Commodores coach Jerry Stackhouse said.

Ezra Manjon scored 17 points to lead the way as Vanderbilt scored a much-needed victory.

“I think it just feels good to get back into that winning column and just get ourselves out of that hump,” Manjon said. “And for me and a couple of the other guys, we’ve experienced getting over that hump … so we have a lot of confidence still.”

Manjon leads Vanderbilt in scoring (14.7) and assists (3.4). Tyrin Lawrence is second at 14.2 points while racking up a team-leading 30 steals.

The Commodores won the final two of their three meetings with Kentucky last season. The latter victory came in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament.

Prior to the consecutive wins, Vanderbilt had lost 14 straight games to the Wildcats.

–Field Level Media

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