The University of Kentucky had a rare opportunity to pick up two wins in one day, and contradicting everything history tells us the football team was the easy bet. Despite being down for most of regulation to the Mississippi State Bulldogs, the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team fought back through two overtimes to start out 1-0 in SEC play and bring Big Blue Nation their second win for the day.
The final score was 78-73 in favor of the Wildcats. Freshman wing Terrence Clarke was out for the game due to an ankle injury he suffered last week. John Calipari was ejected after receiving two technical fouls.
But the big story from the game is that the Cats were led in scoring by Dontaie Allen (!) as he exploded for 23 points, 20 of which came in the second half and overtime. Kentucky certainly did not look like a Final Four contender on Saturday, but a win is a win and this team needed one desperately. Here is what you need to know about Saturday’s game.
After weeks of begging, Kentucky fans were finally treated to a healthy dose of Dontaie Allen. Allen played 33 minutes during the game, hitting seven of 11 three-pointers to go toward his 23 points to go with five rebounds, a block, and no turnovers.
Allen did everything that Kentucky fans had hoped to see. His shot was pure and his effort was obvious. He looked like the best offensive player on Kentucky’s roster by a large margin during the game. Surely he has earned more minutes moving forward, and he has absolutely earned the hearts of fans throughout the Commonwealth.
As he often does when a team is struggling on the road, John Calipari got himself ejected around the 10 minute mark of the second half. It looked intentional, as he continue to argue for a carry against Mississippi State that was never called and then calmly walked off the court.
I am never a fan of the tactic, but we have seen it work before and it seemed to do the trick on Saturday. Kentucky went on a 10-0 run to take their first lead of the second half and ultimately battled in overtime to win the game. Does Cal get credit for getting thrown out or does Bruiser Flint get credit for coaching the guys up while Cal was gone? Let’s go with both.
Boston Continues to Struggle
BJ Boston was Kentucky’s highest ranked recruit coming into the season, and he remains Kentucky’s leading scorer on the year. However, he does not look comfortable at all in the offense. He is often forcing drives into traffic or shooting (and usually missing) long two-point jumpers. He shot just 30.7% of his 13 shots on Saturday.
It became apparent in the second half that Boston did not have it going on Saturday, finishing with a -7 in +/- for the game. He did not play at all in either overtime, and he played sparingly down the stretch in the second half. The lineup the Cats went with in crunch time was Olivier Sarr, Devin Askew, Davion Mintz, Dontaie Allen, and Lance Ware.
It just so happens that Boston’s playing time became limited after Calipari hit the showers. Coincidence? We may never know.
Terrence Clarke Injured
A week after Clarke threw away his boot and suited up against Louisville, he was unavailable in Kentucky’s SEC opener. Obviously the ankle injury is a bit more serious than previously though. That, or he re-injured it in the last couple of days as he reportedly played in the secret scrimmage against Transylvania.
Although it has not translated to winning, the offense has looked much better since Clarke took over some point guard responsibilities. If he continues to be unavailable, the rotation will continue to be in flux as Calipari still has not found a lineup that constantly produces offensively. But if Saturday’s win tells us anything, it is that perhaps BJ Boston’s role will be reduced and Dontaie Allen will get more time on the floor.
Kentucky had eight turnovers in the first half and 18 for the game. That was to go with only 17 assists. This has been a constant theme for the season, and to see little to no improvement is very frustrating.
On the other hand, Kentucky also forced 16 B turnovers. The defense led to offense at several points of the game where buckets were hard to come by. Although the Cats played a decent amount of zone in the first half, the defensive intensity really picked up as the game went on.
Turnovers on both ends will determine Kentucky’s fate moving forward. But will they be able to find the right formula for managing turnovers? Time will tell.