By Ryan Schulz - Lance Goulbourne is very unassuming on the basketball court. He doesn’t look like the type of person who could jump over you or consistently make a three-pointer with a hand in his face, but he is, and no one knows that better now than Kentucky.
The 6-foot-8 freshman couldn’t have picked a better time to have a career day than Tuesday against the Wildcats. Goulbourne, who has battled illness and injury all season, came off the bench to score a career-best 17 points in Vanderbilt’s 77-64 win over Kentucky. The win was Vanderbilt’s fourth in a row over the Wildcats at Memorial Gym.
“Coach (Kevin Stallings) told us to be free and to be aggressive, so I just tried to attack every chance I got and tried to look for open guys at the same time,” Goulbourne said. “I tried to play to my strengths and do what I could to take advantage of what they were doing to us.”
Goulbourne did his damage in just 22 minutes, but what made his performance even more significant was when his points came. After scoring just five points in the eight minutes of action in the first half, Goulbourne scored 12 of his 17 in the second half.
“Lance was obviously a huge key in this game,” Stallings said. “He made them from three, he made them from the foul line, he played a real solid game and I’m really happy for him.”
With the game knotted at 30 at halftime, Vanderbilt opened the second half on a 9-0 run to take a 39-30 lead. With no Patrick Patterson in the lineup and Jodie Meeks held to just 10 points at the time, it looked as if Vanderbilt may stretch the lead even further.
However, Kentucky was able to claw back within four, 45-41, following a pair of free throws by A.J. Stewart with 12:40 to play, but just as the Wildcats were beginning to seize momentum, it was Goulbourne who thwarted their run.
With 11:37 to play in the game the Brooklyn, N.Y., native buried a three-pointer that simultaneously buried the Wildcats. That shot triggered a 15-3 run in which Goulbourne scored eight of the team’s points, including two three-pointers. Goulbourne’s final three-pointer capped the run and gave the Commodores a 16-point lead with 7:54 to play.
“Sometimes it just happens, players get in zones,” Goulbourne said. “We played against a player who gets in a lot of zones in Jodie Meeks, but it just happens. I felt comfortable out there tonight and hope to continue it."
It wasn’t just Goulbourne’s scoring that energized the team during the run; it was also his ability to play above the rim. On one possession, in particular, he just missed an acrobatic dunk in which he attempted to switch hands in mid air.
Goulbourne’s performance on the court sure made it seem as though he were back to 100 percent, but when asked after the game about the status of his health, Goulbourne wasn’t ready to say he is near as healthy as he looked during those 22 minutes.
“I’m actually pretty hurt right now,” he said. “My groin is throbbing right now as I sit here, but I’m just playing through it and will let myself heal at the end of the season.”
If he plays like that when he is injured, I can’t wait to see him when he is healthy.