Kentucky will look to extend their winning streak to four games when heading south to meet Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference on Tuesday in Nashville, Tenn.
The Wildcats (13-6, 4-3 SEC) knocked off the No. 1 back then. 5 Tennessee, Georgia and Texas A&M since an embarrassing fourth-quadrant loss to South Carolina at home on Jan. 10.
A big change since then? The starting point is the reduced role of Sahvir Wheeler. Wheeler didn’t play against the Vols before logging 19 minutes over the next two games combined.
That kept Cason Wallace – who did not play in the South Carolina loss through injury – and freed up minutes for Antonio Reeves and CJ Fredrick. Reeves’ 23 points against Texas A&M was a season high.
Those weren’t the only changes.
Kentucky coach John Calipari opted for a new policy ahead of the Tennessee win: confiscate phones and other electronic devices the night before a game and instead focus on bonding. The Wildcats stayed at a hotel ahead of Saturday’s home win against Texas A&M, something they’ve never done before.
“You go and sleep well and don’t look at anything,” Calipari said after Saturday’s win.
The key wildcat, however, remains reigning international of the year Oscar Tshiebwe, who was named SEC Player of the Week on Monday with 37 points and 24 rebounds against Georgia.
Vanderbilt (10-9, 3-3) lost all three meetings with Kentucky last season, although the presence of 7-foot Liam Robbins in the last two games helped the Commodores keep the final lead in the single digits.
But Robbins — who leads Vanderbilt in scoring (13.2 points per game), rebounds (5.9 boards per game), blocks (2.9 per game) and field goal percentage (54.8) — will take the game miss on Tuesday due to a foot injury.
Robbins also did not play in Saturday’s game in Georgia. The Commodores won without him, 85-82, thanks to five scorers in double figures, led by point guard Ezra Manjon on 19 points.
Manjon went off the floor 8 of 12 while adding two assists and two steals without turning the ball over in 27 minutes.
“Ezra, he ran the show,” Commodores trainer Jerry Stackhouse said. “All the minutes he played, all the decisions he made, doing all of that without a turnover was quite a feat but I thought his pace and control and how he defended was tonight as well a key to victory. “
The Commodores will also be without newcomer Lee Dort, who was also injured on Saturday. That leaves Quentin Millora-Brown (296 minutes this season) as the team’s only available player over 6-foot-8 to record significant minutes.