LEXINGTON, Ky. Unlike the disappointing start of his tenure at Kentucky, coach Billy Gillispie exceeded expectations in his Southeastern Conference debut.
Freshman Patrick Patterson had 23 points and 12 rebounds to lift the Wildcats to a 79-73 double-overtime victory over previously undefeated No. 13 Vanderbilt on Saturday, stealing back some of the luster missing from the historic program during Gillispie's rocky start.
"There's a lot of basketball left," Gillispie said. "Not one time have I heard anyone make an excuse for them, and not one time have I heard them make an excuse."
Ramel Bradley added 20 points, and Joe Crawford had 17 for Kentucky (7-7, 1-0), which gave Gillispie his first win against a ranked opponent this season.
But the Wildcats weren't spectacular.
They allowed Vanderbilt (16-1, 1-1) to crawl back from 16-point, second-half deficit, then blew an overtime lead before mounting a comeback.
But the hustle and effort that Gillispie has chastised his team for not having returned, and finally the Wildcats have a win they hope can spark their season.
"When you win a game like that, it says a lot about the toughness of your team," Gillispie said. "They didn't give up and we wouldn't give up, either. That's what made me most proud."
Shan Foster had 20 points for Vanderbilt, which started the day as one of five unbeaten teams in Division I. A.J. Ogilvy struggled early for the Commodores, but wound up with 16 points and five rebounds.
Still, Ogilvy admitted the 23,965 fans at Rupp Arena the largest crowd he's played in front of with Vanderbilt had him rattled.
"I think we got taken out of our game a little bit at the start," Ogilvy said. "We just tried to recover, but never could."
Bradley's jumper in the second overtime put Kentucky ahead 77-73, clinching the Wildcats' first win over a ranked opponent this season.
For a team that had seemed to lose confidence under Gillispie, Kentucky got a much-needed boost that comes with an exhausting win over a ranked SEC East opponent.
Other games this season weren't as telling.
Kentucky was shocked with a 16-point home loss to Gardner-Webb in Gillispie's second game and the poor showings snowballed. The Wildcats lost to top-ranked North Carolina and were routed at No. 11 Indiana. They lost at home to unheralded San Diego. They were beaten by instate rival Louisville.
They didn't show any affects of all that against Vanderbilt, playing with the passion of the Kentucky team's of old.
"We wanted this one, we needed this one and we got this one," Bradley said. "There's a whole new season ahead, and now we need to go out and keeping getting more wins."
Ogilvy's putback with 1.8 seconds left in the first overtime tied it at 72, sending a once blowout game into a second overtime.
After Vanderbilt took a 69-68 lead in the first overtime on a layup by Alan Metcalfe, Bradley answered with a layup for Kentucky. Patterson would the put the Wildcats ahead 72-69 on a tip-in, pumping his fist in a premature celebration.
"This is why I came to Kentucky," Patterson said. "I knew we could win games like this Kentucky is supposed to win games like this."