Dontaie Allen got his chance to shine against Mississippi State on Saturday, and he took full advantage of the opportunity.
Twenty-three points and a double OT win later, John Calipari had no choice but to keep giving Allen significant minutes going forward.
The big question going into Tuesday’s game against Vanderbilt was how much Allen would play. I think his 32 minutes exceeded the expectations of many, and he continued to deliver offensively with 14 points and was a perfect 4/4 from the free-throw line.
After his second solid performance in a row, it seems that Calipari is finally sold on the in-state star.
“I’m telling you, he deserves to be on that court,” Calipari said after Kentucky’s 77-74 win over Vanderbilt. “You know what he does to the defense, he spreads out the defense. I ran a play for him, banged a three. Right to the top, boom.”
Cal did say that Allen struggled on defense, potentially giving up as many points as he scored. But he noted that Allen is not the only one and that his mistakes are correctable.
“Allen broke down a ton today defensively. He made baskets and free throws when we needed it, but he may have given up as many as he scored. And I told him, I said, look, if that’s the case and it’s even-steven, I’m probably good with you.”
Despite the odd choice of words, his point was clear: even if Allen’s defense struggles a bit, his presence on the offensive end changes things enough to keep him on the floor.
One of Allen’s biggest fans has been senior center Olivier Sarr, who continued to heap praise on the redshirt freshman.
“He’s a knockdown shooter,” Sarr said of Allen. “He showed us last game, and this game again. His offense is self-explanatory. He opens the court for everybody. Whether it is driving lanes or in the post with the bigs, it changes the game. It makes winning easier. He wants to do what is best for the team, which is shooting 3s. He still must find a way to get his 3s off.”
Having Allen able to space the floor has certainly made life easier on Sarr, who’s scored 38 points over the last two games after having just three in the previous two games when Allen logged just one minute and no shot attempts.
The Wildcats will face their biggest challenge of 2021 on Saturday as they travel to Gainesville to take on the Florida Gators. Allen is going to have to be a little better than even-steven for Kentucky to pick up their third conference win in a row.