NEW ORLEANS — John Calipari said from the time he arrived in the Big Easy that he didn’t like conference tournaments.
After top-ranked Kentucky endured three tough games in three days with nothing to show for it, his opinion wasn’t bound to change any time soon.
“I wish this would have happened yesterday so we got home a day earlier,” Calipari said Sunday after the Wildcats collapsed late in a 71-64 loss to Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference tournament final.
The Wildcats (32-2) won two of their three games in New Orleans, but never led by double digits and trailed in the second half of all three.
Still, they were on the cusp of extending their winning streak to 25 games when Anthony Davis’ free throw gave them a 62-55 lead with 5:23 left. Then Kentucky began settling for jump shots, taking nine from that point and missing all of them, including five 3-point attempts.
“We just went ice cold. There was like a lid on the basket. Nothing was falling for us,” said point guard Marquis Teague, who went scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting. “It was wide open shots that we normally make.”
Despite the loss, the Wildcats gained the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Jeffery Taylor scored 18 points, John Jenkins added 17 and Vanderbilt (24-10) rallied with a 16-2 run in the final five minutes to end the Wildcats’ winning streak that lasted more than three months.
Festus Ezeli had 17 points for Vanderbilt, which was playing in its first SEC tournament final since 1951, the year of its only other championship.
Kentucky missed its final 14 field goals, not hitting one in the final 8:04.
“Maybe now everybody realizes we’re not invincible,” Calipari said. “We’re like everybody else out there.”
Sophomore guard Doron Lamb said: “We didn’t lose in a long time. Now we know how it feels, and we don’t like this feeling, so we’re going to try to win these next six games.”
■ SPARTANS EDGE BUCKEYES — At Indianapolis, Draymond Green had 12 points and nine rebounds to help eighth-ranked Michigan State (27-7) gain a 68-64 victory over No. 7 Ohio State (27-7) in the Big Ten final.
Brandon Wood scored a season-high 21 points for the Spartans, who earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament with their first Big Ten tournament title since 2000.
Jared Sullinger scored 18 points to lead Ohio State.
■ SEMINOLES TOP NO. 4 TAR HEELS — At Atlanta, tournament Most Valuable Player Michael Snaer scored 18 points, and 17th-ranked Florida State (24-9) win its first ACC championship with an 85-82 victory over No. 4 North Carolina (29-5).
The Seminoles, who joined the ACC in 1991, showed their 33-point rout of the Tar Heels in the regular season was no fluke, though this one went to the wire. North Carolina nearly came all the way back from a 16-point first-half deficit.
P.J. Hairston missed a tying 3 at the buzzer. Harrison Barnes led North Carolina with 23 points, and Tyler Zeller had 19 points and 12 rebounds.
■ BONNIES WIN NCAA BID — At Atlantic City, Atlantic 10 player of the year Andrew Nicholson compiled 26 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocked shots, leading St. Bonaventure (20-11) to a 67-56 victory over Xavier (21-12) to earn its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2000.