Big Blue didn't lose a conference game during the regular season, but the SEC Tournament belongs to Vanderbilt. The Commodores and Wildcats battled back and forth, but Vandy's defense and shooting down the stretch put away Kentucky 71-64.
The largest lead either team had at any point was only eight points, a 26-18 edge for Vandy in the first half, as neither team was able to sustain any runs for all that long. Every time it seemed like Kentucky was getting ready to run away with it, and you could tell by the way the very pro-UK crowd wanted to explode, Vanderbilt had an answer to stop the momentum.
With about 12 minutes to go in the second half, the feeling of the game turned in Kentucky's favor. Vandy was scoring just enough points to prevent the Wildcats from extending their lead beyond six, but they were getting easy buckets while VU had to work for everything it got. When Darius Miller dunked it with 8:04 on the clock, it was just another easy couple of points for the Wildcats.
As it turns out, that was the last field goal Big Blue would score. UK got only five points after that, all from the free throw line, as Vanderbilt turned up the defensive heat. Suddenly, the lobs and layups disappeared while Kentucky missed one off balance jumper after another. Jeffery Taylor, Kedren Johnson, and Festus Ezeli took turns making big buckets down the stretch, and John Jenkins iced the game from the free throw line.
So yes, Virginia, you can beat Kentucky without needing to be in front of a favorable crowd or heaving in a buzzer beater. This win means the world to Vandy; the TV cameras caught an emotional Kevin Stallings crying into a towel after he barely kept it together in his postgame interview. It's also a big statement for the SEC's shared revenue model, when you think about it.
This huge win will be a boost for the VU's NCAA tournament seeding, while it probably doesn't affect Kentucky at all. We'll find out in a few hours where everyone will be, but for now, all hail the Commodores of Vanderbilt: your 2012 SEC Tournament Champions.