Even the casual college basketball fan knew what was at stake when UK matched up with Auburn on Saturday afternoon. Although it’s only mid-January, it really had the feel of a make-or-break game considering the Wildcats’ abysmal record and no concrete evidence of incremental improvement.
With another loss, a path to the NCAA Tournament, aside from winning the SEC tournament, seemed like a pipe dream. Unfortunately, Saturday mirrored much of what fans have seen all season.
An embarrassing offensive output that resulted in a loss to a mediocre opponent. In the Cats’ 66-59 loss to the Tigers, it was yet another example of points coming anything but easy.
Davion Mintz lead UK in scoring with just 11 points on 5/12 shooting. John Calipari continues to search for some form of offense but many are arguing that the tools are there, but the head coach just isn’t using them correctly.
A few weeks ago, the Big Blue Nation was riding the wave of the hometown hero. After finally getting some legitimate playing time, Pendleton County native Dontaie Allen burst on the scene and appeared to be an obvious solve for the Cats shooting woes.
Allen’s ability to step in the game and immediately create spacing for himself and teammates should have helped this team reconcile some of their offensive deficiencies, yet it hasn’t exactly went that direction since Allen was introduced to the line-up a few weeks ago.
Despite scoring eight points in the first half, Allen found himself on the bench for the majority of the second half.
After the game, Coach Cal spoke to the media via Zoom and provided this explanation for the puzzling decision to leave Allen riding the pine.
”At the end of the day, we were running stuff for Dontaie and he wouldn’t shoot the ball. That’s why I took him out one time...You’re in there to make shots. That’s one thing. Dontaie wasn’t the issue.” Calipari told reporters.
That rationale isn’t doing much for Cal’s current position with the fans, and it was even worse with his follow-up comments on why Allen and Jacob Toppin didn’t play more coming out of halftime while guys like Brandon Boston Jr. continue to stay on the floor no matter what.
“I want to win every game I coach, but the other side of it is, I’m not trying to take anybody’s heart away,” he said.
Jeff Goodman probably had the best response to what it sounded like Calipari was really saying.
Calipari translation:— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) January 16, 2021
“I gotta play the Top 25 recruits and try and make sure we get them to the NBA.” https://t.co/p2zERecnBz
Not only is Allen the hometown kid, but he’s also really the only player on this team who’s proven to be a threat from deep with consistency. So when a team is laboring to score a measly 70 points per game, you’d think that utilizing your scorers would be on the agenda, but for whatever reason, that’s not the case with Calipari.
Kentucky is now firmly outside of the 64 team NCAA tournament field, and at this rate it could go three full calendar years before the Cats play in a March Madness game.