The 2-6 Cats came into Tuesday night’s matchup with Vanderbilt having a little extra wind in their sails. Fresh off a double-overtime win at Mississippi State, it was the first time in a longtime that some positive vibes surrounded John Calipari’s team.
Unfortunately, much of that momentum was swiftly squandered in the first half after the Commodores buried eight threes on their way to a seven-point lead at the break.
One bright spot was Oliver Sarr, who lead all scorers with 15 points. Without his offensive contributions, UK would have been in major trouble and likely down double-digits. He’d go on to have a big night.
After halftime adjustments, the Cats were able to claw their way back and tie the game after two made Dontaie Allen free throws with eight minutes to play. Allen would follow up his incredible 23-point outburst on Saturday with 14 more tonight.
It was another complete barn-burner that went down to the final wire. Davion Mintz drained a corner three with under a minute to go to give UK a three-point lead and ultimately the victory.
The absence of Terrence Clarke and poor play of fellow freshman BJ Boston — Kentucky continues to struggle to find easy points. Tonight’s 77 points were the most that the Cats have scored all season in regulation, but it’s still apparent that they are still figuring things out.
Despite predictable foul trouble, Oliver Sarr was able to establish himself in the post early and often when he was on the floor. Kentucky is a different team when he is effective around the rim and stretching the defense making shots.
His fourth foul with under two minutes to go was beyond questionable. Shortly after, his night was over after picking up his fifth, which was also highly questionable.
The physical toughness of the SEC has been raised as a concern for the ACC transfer. But Olivier Sarr seems to be rising to the challenge and not backing down. He had a vicious block with under three minutes to go to regain a critical possession for Kentucky.
Tonight, the Big Blue Nation got a glimpse of what they were expecting this pre-season. There is no reason that Olivier Sarr can’t be a volume scorer night in and night out.
Much of his production will rely on the performance of others but with the continued emergence of Dontaie Allen, you can only assume the benefits will roll down to the Wake Forest transfer.
But he’ll need to stay on the floor to be impactful.