Wildcats ‘fight like heck’ to hold off gritty Commodores, 77-74

Vanderbilt is always a struggle for Kentucky, and Tuesday night was no different.

“Every year we play them, it’s exactly the same way,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “They make all the shots and then we have to fight like heck to win a close game — every time we play them. Last year, the year before and every coach, not just this coach, the last one and the one before that. I’m happy for the kids. It’s a win.”

Davion Mintz hit a 3-pointer with 47 seconds remaining to lift the Wildcats to a 77-74 victory over the Commodores. The win was the second in a row for Kentucky, which defeated Mississippi State last Saturday to end a six-game losing streak.

“I don’t feel like I played my best game, but just the fact that a win is a win,” Mintz said afterward. “It doesn’t matter what I do out there. Just taking away from the games we’ve been through this season, I don’t care if it’s a middle school team, a win is a win and we’re happy about it.

“We’re just going to keep progressing and keep going. It boosts our confidence and everything that we can take, we want. … it is trending and we’re going in the right direction.”

Calipari said the trey by Mintz came down to execution and credited the players, including Jacob Toppin, for sticking with the game plan down the stretch.

“They’re worried about their team instead of themselves,” he said. “Every player has a role. Jacob Toppin was ridiculous. Whoever fights I need them in the game — I need fighters just like we did at Mississippi State — I need fighters.”

Vanderbilt (4-4, 0-2) had two chances to tie the score in the final six seconds but missed two treys, including a long-range attempt by Maxwell Evans that bounced off the rim three times at the buzzer.