NEW ORLEANS — John Jenkins laid on the court with his hands over his face as Vanderbilt teammates celebrated all around, exuberant after beating No. 1 Kentucky 71-64 for the program’s first Southeastern Conference tournament title in more than 60 years.
The Wildcats might not really care about the SEC Tournament. The Commodores did.
Jeffery Taylor scored 18 points, Jenkins added 17 and Vanderbilt rallied with a 16-2 run over the final 5 minutes to end the Wildcats’ 24-game winning streak that lasted more than three months.
“Their 24-game winning streak. Their name on the front of their jersey doesn’t matter to us,” Vanderbilt’s Lance Goulbourne said. “Whoever was in our way, we were going to play as hard as we could to try to win that championship.”
Festus Ezeli also had 17 points for Vanderbilt (24-10), which was playing in its first SEC Tournament final since 1951, the year of its only other championship. The Commodores pushed ahead in the final minutes with a few timely shots, but mostly with suffocating defense.
Kentucky (32-2) didn’t score a field goal over the final 8:04 and shot 35.9 percent from the field (23 of 64).
The Wildcats might still win a championship this season, but it wasn’t in the SEC Tournament. Even with the loss, Kentucky was named the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Kentucky coach John Calipari said the loss serves as a wake-up call.
“Maybe now everybody realizes we’re not invincible,” Calipari said. “We’re like everybody else out there. We’re going to have to execute, play hard and with some aggressiveness and intensity or we will get beat.”