Well, that was interesting.
In a game that had the absolute feel of a must-win situation in Lexington and points all across Big Blue Nation, the Kentucky Wildcats rode a career performance from former Pendleton County standout Dontaie Allen to defeat Mississippi State 78-73 in double overtime in Starkville.
Not only did the Cats win on the road in their SEC opener, but they also won without their coach and one of their top performers on the sideline or on the court.
Freshman guard Terrence Clarke was out due to an ankle injury. Coach John Calipari received two technicals early in the game and was tossed. However, his ejection gave the Cats a spark on the defensive end.
From there, Allen did the rest on the offensive end.
Allen, who only had two made baskets all season coming into the game, exploded for 23 points and shot 7-11 from the three-point line to help the Cats (2-6) overcome a five-point deficit at the half to win.
The Cats had their best shooting night all season from deep, going 11-21 from behind the line.
Allen got scoring help from across the lineup from center Olivier Sarr with 14 points and guards Brandon Boston Jr and Devin Askew with 11 apiece
But the moment belonged to Allen. Kentucky fans have been clamoring for him to get an opportunity to produce. Allen delivered big at the most opportune time.
The Cats have closed 2020 at 1-6. They’re 1-0 in 2021 and undefeated in SEC play right now. Can Allen sustain this run? Who knows.
But for one night, a Kentucky product led the beloved Wildcats to a rousing victory.
Here’s a look at the postgame celebration following the Cats’ wild double-OT win.
Below are the game notes, courtesy of UK Athletics.
Team Records and Series Notes
Kentucky improves to 2-6 overall and 1-0 in Southeastern Conference play.
Mississippi State is now 6-4 overall, 1-1 in the conference.
UK now leads the series 99-20, including wins in 15 straight vs. the Bulldogs.
Kentucky leads 37-12 in games played in Starkville, Mississippi.
The Wildcats have beaten the Bulldogs in every game of the John Calipari era, the only team yet to register a victory vs. UK with Calipari at the helm.
Next: UK will host Vanderbilt on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center for UK’s SEC home opener. It will be the Wildcats’ first game at home since Dec. 12, a total of 24 days since the last game. The game will be televised by SEC Network.
Dontaie Allen put on a performance for the ages. After logging just a minute over the previous three games (two DNPs), the redshirt freshman came off the bench to lead the Kentucky comeback with a career-high 23 points.
Allen played 32 minutes and made 8 of 13 shots and 7 of 11 from 3, plus five rebounds. All were career highs.
The seven 3-pointers are the most by a Wildcat since Immanuel Quickley made eight at Texas A&M on Feb. 25.
Trailing 50-41, Allen hit three key 3-pointers to turn the nine-point deficit into a 56-55 UK advantage.
Allen also hit a 3 with 1:34 left in regulation to tie the game and a 3 in the first overtime that gave Kentucky a three-point lead and eventually sent the game to a second overtime.
He scored five straight points in the second overtime to extend UK’s 71-70 lead to 76-70.
Olivier Sarr notched the second double-double as a Kentucky Wildcat and the 13th of his career with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Lance Ware played a career-high 35 minutes and grabbed a career-best and game-high 13 boards.
Brandon Boston Jr. extended his double-figure scoring streak to eight games with 11 points. He’s the only Wildcat to score in double figure in every game.
Isaiah Jackson had a strong game defensively with four blocks and a career-high three steals in 19 minutes. His four swats were his most since blocking eight vs. Kansas on Dec. 1.
Devin Askew had another strong game with 11 points, a game-high six assists and four rebounds.
Terrence Clarke did not play for the first time this season. He’s day-to-day with a right ankle injury.
Coach John Calipari
Calipari improves to 332-83 at UK.
He now has a 777-223 all-time on-court record.
Calipari has a perfect 16-0 record vs. Mississippi State in his career with 15 of the victories coming as head coach at Kentucky.
UK is 269-48 under Calipari against Associated Press unranked teams.
Kentucky is 56-18 under Calipari following a loss. Five of those losses occurred during the now-extinct six-game losing streak.
UK is now won 10 of 12 SEC openers under Calipari and nine of 12 road SEC openers.
Saturday’s game marked the 1,000th college game of Calipari’s 29-year college head coach career. Calipari is 777-223 in those games. The only coach in NCAA history with at least 189 on-court victories at three different schools, only two coaches (Adolph Rupp with 824 and Roy Williams with 790) have won more games than Calipari through their first 1,000 career games.
UK snapped a six-game losing streak, its longest since Feb. 5-22, 1989.
It was tied for the second-longest losing streak in school history. The 1923 team dropped nine in a row.
UK, which leads the league with 49 regular-season SEC titles, nearly as many as the rest of the league combined, is 68-19 all-time in SEC openers.
The Wildcats are 10-2 in SEC openers under Calipari.
Kentucky is 9-3 in their first SEC road game of the season under Calipari.
The Wildcats have now won three straight games decided in overtime after winning both overtime games last season.
It was UK’s first double-overtime game since winning at Texas A&M 70-64 in two overtimes on Jan. 10, 2015.
Kentucky lost the battle of the boards 49-48, only the third time this season UK has been outrebounded.
The Wildcats dished out 17 assists, their dimes most since the season opener vs. Morehead State when they had 18.
UK blocked 10 shots, the most the team has totaled since 12 vs. Kansas on Dec. 1.
Led by Allen’s seven 3-pointers, Kentucky sank a season-high 11 from long range.
The Wildcats were only 3 of 8 from the charity stripe for a 37.5% clip. The eight attempts are the third fewest of the Calipari era. UK has twice been limited to six attempts during his tenure.
The three makes tied for the fewest total number of free throws under Calipari. UK also made just three against East Tennessee State on Nov. 17, 2017.
In the First Half
The starting lineup consisted of Devin Askew, Davion Mintz, Brandon Boston Jr., Isaiah Jackson and Olivier Sarr for the second time this season. UK is 1-1 with the lineup.
Sarr scored UK’s first points of the game, a 3-pointer from the top of the arc at the 17:19 mark after falling behind 4-0.
Kentucky’s first three field goals were 3-pointers.
Lance Ware was UK’s first sub at the 16:07 mark.
UK’s defense helped charge a 21-16 lead. The Wildcats blocked four shots in the first 12 minutes with two of them from Jackson.
A near five-minute scoring drought by the Wildcats ceded a 21-16 lead. Ware ended an 8-0 MSU run with a second-chance bucket with 4:27 left in the first half.
Dontaie Allen hit his first field goal and first 3-pointer since Dec. 1 vs. Kansas.
Kentucky blocked eight shots in the first half, the most in any half this season.
The Wildcats trailed 35-30 at the half.
UK moves to 1-3 this season when trailing at intermission.
In the Second Half
The starting lineup opened the second half.
Mississippi State opened up a 50-41 advantage midway through the second half, but UK responded with a tip-back by Sarr off his own miss and an Allen 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 50-46.
However, moments later, down 52-46 Calipari was assessed two technical fouls and ejected from the game. MSU hit three of four free throws to go up 55-46.
Similar to Calipari’s ejection at Arkansas last season, this expulsion lit a fire under the Wildcats as well. UK answered with a 10-0 run sparked by two Allen 3-pointers to take a 56-55 lead with 5:08 left.
It was the Wildcats’ first lead of the second half.
Kentucky had three attempts to win the game with a final possession but could not connect.
Mississippi State scored the first three points of overtime, but a tough bucket by Mintz pulled the Cats to within one with 3:02 to play.
Toppin’s layup tied the score at the 2:25 mark and then Allen gave the Wildcats their first lead of the extra period with a three, but the Bulldogs answered on the ensuing possession to force a second overtime period.
Sarr drained his second 3-pointer of the game to lift the Wildcats to the lead quickly, an advantage they would not relinquish.
An Allen 3 followed by an Askew runner lifted Kentucky to its largest lead of the game with 1:33 to play.