The Kentucky Wildcats traveled down to Oxford, Mississippi on Tuesday to try and bounce back for a win after Saturday’s home loss against Florida. And despite leading early in the second half, they fell short and lost to the Ole Miss Rebels 70-62.
The Wildcats were led in scoring by Keion Brooks with 14 points. He also led the team with six rebounds while Davion Mintz contributed 10 points and eight assists. While it seemed a few weeks ago that the Wildcats had turned a corner, this loss made it clear that Kentucky winning the SEC Tournament will very much be an uphill battle.
Here is what you need to know from Tuesday’s game.
There was a lot of eye-rolling when Davion Mintz committed to Kentucky last spring. What could a transfer guard from Creighton have to offer over the star recruits that land in Kentucky every year? Well, time and again Mintz has shown us a hosts of things this Kentucky team was lacking.
While he is not officially the leading scorer on the season, Mintz has led the Wildcats in points in three of the last five and four of the last nine games with nobody else leading in more than two games during that span. He makes shots when nobody seems able to, plays capable perimeter defense, and shows poise when the rest of the team gets rattled.
Unfortunately, he struggled tonight, and that was a big reason why Kentucky never could get going in this one.
Still, this team would be lucky to see Mintz return for another season. Regardless of who is coming in, he has shown that he can contribute and be a leader for this program. Another season in Lexington would seem like a win-win, but regardless Kentucky fans should be happy he spent as much time here as he did.
Jackson can be special, if he did not foul so much
We have seen flashes of Isaiah Jackson’s unreal athleticism throughout the season. He has blocked tons of shot, had some ridiculous dunks, and regularly changed games with his mere presence. On Tuesday, he continued to show progress in polishing his game and turning into a player that is truly special.
Jackson has proven throughout the season that he is gifted and on another level. From the moment he stepped foot on campus, he raised eyebrows. But I think we now know that he is a sure fire first round pick and could make a heck of an NBA player.
Yet, during his time playing for Kentucky, it has seemed impossible for Jackson to avoid foul trouble. He has averaged six fouls per 40 minutes, which, if you know the rules of college basketball, is not allowed.
If Jackson can stay on the court during the SEC Tournament, it changes everything for the Wildcats. Will he be able to maintain the discipline? It could make all the difference.
Where in the world are Dontaie Allen’s minutes?
Dontaie Allen stormed his way on the court a few months ago, hit threes at an incredible pace, and injected some excitement into the Kentucky fan base. After a slow fade, Allen has found himself on the outside looking in on the rotation.
Allen only played three minutes on Tuesday. It is not that John Calipari is ignoring him completely. In fact, it is almost worse that he gives him extremely limited minutes every game where he has no opportunity to contribute.
Allen has not played more than nine minutes since Kentucky’s first matchup against Tennessee in early February. Given, he had a few games with little impact leading up to that. But when John Calipari decided to tighten up the rotation, Allen found himself spending most of his time on the bench.
It has been interesting to look at the +/- stat for Devin Askew during this time, as he has struggled mightily on the offensive end. Has this been an issue of Calipari choosing defense over offense? Is he choosing a five-star player over an in-state guy? And will this result in Allen looking to play elsewhere next season? No matter the answer to any of these questions, fans have to question the fact that Allen, who was so productive at times, is not even seeing the court these days.
Crushed on the glass
Olivier Sarr. Keion Brooks. Isaiah Jackson. Jacob Toppin. Those guys all have the ability to rebound at an elite level.
However, they have continued to allow other teams to dominate the glass. Not a single player for Ole Miss over 6-8 plays more than 12 minutes per game. Yet, the smaller Rebels dominated the glass on Tuesday.
It is tough to win a game when you struggle to get rebounds. That is compounded when you struggle to take care of the ball and have trouble making shots.
Of all of the unacceptable habits of Kentucky this season, getting crushed on the glass may be the most unacceptable.