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No. 5 Kentucky silenced Scotty Pippen Jr. and turned Vanderbilt and Amalie Arena all Wildcat Blue in a 77-71 victory in the SEC Tournament Friday night in Tampa, Florida, in front of 17,132.
Pippen had scored 33 and 32 points in his last two games against the Wildcats and was bidding to become the first player in decades to score 30 three times against Kentucky, but guard Davion Mintz muzzled him most of the night.
Pippen, a junior point guard, hit just 2 of 17 shots from the field and 1 of 7 from 3-point range to finish with 10 points. Half of his points came from the free throw line. He did manage seven assists.
“I’ll give credit to them,” Pippen said. “They had a good game on me. We had three games in three days. That had an effect on me. Tired legs.”
Pippen was averaging 20 a game and scored 26 on Thursday in a win over Alabama. Mintz scored 10 points himself with five assists and a blocked shot. Kentucky guard TyTy Washington scored 25.
“It felt like we were playing at Rupp,” said Vanderbilt forward Jordan Wright, who led all scorers with 27 on 10-of-12 shooting, including 5-of-6 from 3-point range. “They had a great crowd and great energy. When they needed to be picked up, they were there.”
The No. 3 seed Wildcats (26-6) will play No. 2 seed and ninth-ranked Tennessee (24-7) at approximately 3:30 p.m. eastern Saturday on ESPN in the semifinals. Tennessee defeated Mississippi State, 72-59, on Friday night.
Kentucky lost at Tennessee, 76-63, on Feb. 15 and beat the Volunteers, 107-79, on Jan. 15 in Rupp Arena Lexington.
The first semifinal will tip off at 1 p.m. Saturday on ESPN between No. 4 seed and No. 15-ranked Arkansas (25-7) and No. 8 seed Texas A&M (22-11), which knocked off No. 1 seed and No. 4-ranked Auburn, 67-62, in the first game on Friday afternoon. Arkansas eliminated LSU, 79-67, in game two.
The SEC Tournament championship game will be at 1 p.m. Sunday on ESPN.
Forward Oscar Tshiebwe scored 12 points with 14 rebounds for Kentucky. Sahvir Wheeler directed a potent Kentucky offense with 11 assists and eight points.
No. 11 seed Vanderbilt (17-16) lost for the 13th straight time to Kentucky with Pippen falling to 0-for-6.
The Commodores refused to go away and stayed close throughout. A 3-pointer by Wright cut Kentucky’s lead to 73-69 with 54 seconds to go. It could’ve grown closer with 20.7 seconds left, but officials appeared to incorrectly rule a possession to Kentucky after the ball went out of bounds.
“Hats off to Vanderbilt,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “Third game in three days, and they never stopped. That’s amazing.”