NASHVILLE, Tenn. – John Jenkins scored a career-high 32 points, hitting six 3-pointers, to lift No. 23 Vanderbilt to an 81-77 victory over No. 18 Kentucky on Saturday.
With the win, the Commodores (18-6, 6-4) swept a three-game homestand that will keep them tied for second in the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division. They came into Saturday tied with Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee, two losses behind Florida.
Kentucky (17-7, 5-5) dropped to 1-5 on the road in the SEC this season and to the bottom of the East.
Jenkins had Vanderbilt's first 30-point game against the Wildcats since Mike Rhodes on Jan. 19, 1980, with the Commodores' first 30-point game since A.J. Ogilvy had 33 at LSU on March 4, 2009. Festus Ezeli added 14 points, Steve Tchiengang scored all 12 of his in the first half off and Brad Tinsley had 11.
Terrence Jones led Kentucky with 25 points, Brandon Knight had 20 and DeAndre Liggins 10.
Jones' 3-point attempt at the buzzer bounced off the rim. Kentucky coach John Calipari wanted a foul that didn't come as the Commodores celebrated beating the Wildcats for the fifth time in Memorial Gym in the past six seasons.
The Wildcats' youth caught up with them in the final minute. Vandy hit its final six free throws to help seal the victory. When Tinsley hit two free throws with 31.6 seconds left for a 79-75 lead, the Wildcats didn't put up a shot until Liggins' jumper hit air with 17 seconds remaining.
They brought the ball up too slowly after Tinsley added two more free throws with 7.9 seconds left, leaving Jones to launch his 3 almost near midcourt.
The Commodores needed every point as Jeff Taylor missed his first six shots and played only 21 minutes due to foul trouble. The junior came in averaging 15.1 points a game, and his only basket came with a spinning layup to cap a fast break with 2:41 left putting Vandy up 73-69.
Vanderbilt matched a season-high with 11 3s, and the SEC's best free throw shooters went 20 of 23 at the line. Kentucky was 14 of 18 in a game with 39 fouls.
They swapped the lead nine times with nine ties, and Kentucky never led by more than two points in the second half — the last at 66-64 on a 3-pointer by Knight with 5:38 left.
Ezeli tied it with a layup, then Jenkins put Vanderbilt ahead to stay with his sixth 3 with 4:28 left.
Kentucky looked ready to blow the Commodores out of Memorial Gym in the opening minutes, taking a 19-11 lead with eight straight points.
Vanderbilt answered with a 3-pointer by Tchiengang, which seemed to wake up the Commodores. Tchiengang scored nine of the final 11 points of the first half to turn a 34-33 deficit into a 44-40 lead.