Dontaie Allen sizzles for 23 as Kentucky basketball ends a six-game slide.
Dontaie Allen sat and sat and sat as he kept hearing Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari telling him to be ready.
Well, Allen’s time finally came and not only did he bolt to the scorer’s table he lit the nets on fire going off for a game and career-high 23 points hitting 7 of 11 three-pointers and helping Kentucky end a six-game losing streak with a dramatic come from behind 78-73 win at Mississippi State.
It was the Southeastern Conference opener for Kentucky (2-6, 1-0) who had been reeling in a historical 100-year old losing streak to start the season. Confidence was low, shooting was poor, decision making was suspect and the play just dreadful.
Fans had been clamoring for Allen to get his opportunity and the dead-eye shooter from Pendelton County gave them what they were waiting for.
So as the lyric’s say in the Fall Out Boy song “My songs know what you did in the dark (Light em Up)”
So light em up up up, light ’em up up up,
light em up up up, I’m on fire
That’s exactly what the redshirt freshman did with confidence and precision.
He finished 8 of 14 from the field, had five rebounds, a block, and just a single turnover.
“I don’t think it was pressure only because I put in the work. I didn’t know when my opportunity would come. Nobody knows, so I was just keeping my head down and working hard. I’m just thankful for the opportunity I had tonight.”
He averaged 42.9 points per game and 14 rebounds his senior year in high school before it was cut short by a torn ACL.
But his high school overall stats tell the whole story with 3,255 career points, which ranks 11th all-time in state history. He also grabbed 1,228 career rebounds, the 22nd highest total in Kentucky High School basketball records. He was also Mr. Basketball.
As I have stated he won’t be the savior of this team but it sorely has been lacking energy, enthusiasm, and a true understanding of what it means to wear the Kentucky name across your jersey.
So with Terrence Clarke out with an ankle injury and in a walking boot, it was Allen getting 33 minutes of playing time.
He truly came to life when Calipari was ejected with 9:04 left in regulation and Kentucky slogging along and trailing by six points.
Assistant coach James “Bruiser” Flint looked squarely at Allen during a timeout as if to say this is your time to shine.
“To all the kids, if there’s kids listening in the state, it comes down to work. If you put in the work, you can do some great things.”
The bench provided its usual spark besides Allen with Lance Ware really taking up space in the paint. The 6-foot-11 freshman scored just four points but they don’t need a lot of scoring just the 12 boards he grabbed to go with two assists, a steal, and a block. Jacob Toppin pitched in six points and four rebounds.
The assists (17) were better but 18 turnovers are about five more than need to compete. They did block 10 shots led by Isaiah Jackson‘s four. He also added two rebounds, two assists, and three of the Wildcats’ 10 steals.
Paging Olivier Sarr this is how you need to play
Also waiting for his turn although he has been on the court physically but absent for the stat sheet the past couple of games Olivier Sarr also stepped to the front.
Sarr, who had zero points in the past two games against North Carolina and Louisville seemed to grasp his role as well.
Calipari said pre-game that all he asked of the big man was to simply start by getting 10 rebounds a game and the rest of the game and points would follow.
The graduate transfer from Wake Forrest finished with a double-double of 14 points, 12 rebounds, and two blocks. More importantly, the 7-footer from Bordeaux France stayed out of foul trouble and on the floor getting whistled for just two fouls.
Devin Askew the true pupil is shining brightly
Devin Askew was asked to do the impossible and take on the point guard role as a freshman when he actually should be a senior in high school. But he asked for this by reclassifying and coming early.
Struggling early to grasp the college game he headed to the bench and entered as the sixth man a few games ago. That appears just what he needed – that and a lot of Camp Cal one on one instructions.
Now he is confident and making the offense run especially against Mississipi State tallying 11 points, six assists, grabbing four rebounds, dishing out two assists, and committing just three turnovers.
The offense finally got some grease under Askew and the offensive movement began to turn.
Calipari may have gotten the boot on purpose
While he will never fully admit it Calipari has been coaching long enough to know when drawing a technical can inspire his team. That worked last season against Arkansas.
After arguing about a non-palming call he was assessed two technicals and off to the locker room he went.
“When I walked off, I said, this is either going to be a good thing or a bad thing. And then when we started making our run — and there was a lot of time now. So I knew it wasn’t four minutes, it was nine minutes. So, we watched it and I’m in there with Kevin Sargent and I’m pacing and I’m going and it’s close and I’m saying this could turn into the same thing [as the Arkansas game last season].”
A mere 20 seconds later Allen dropped in his third 3-pointer and the rally began.
Calipari was pacing relentlessly in the locker room watching the game on his phone.
If there were cell phones back when the movie Hoosiers was filmed you could envision Gene Hackman doing the same when he purposely would get tossed from games.
The locker room celebration was most likely the same but we will never know except for the stories we hear and a brief clip courtesy of Kentucky basketball. But it appears it was quite joyous.
Calipari took to the shadows to take in what his young team has accomplished without him on the floor and the excitement.
“What I did after the game, I snuck in the back of the locker room in the far corner before they came in because I just wanted to enjoy that celebration. I wanted to see it, I wanted to enjoy it, and I wanted to remember why I do what I do. To see that kind of stuff. And then doing it without me, which is even better. It’s better…we just needed to win one to get going.”
Will the result be the same as the Hickory Huskers on their way to a championship well that remains to be seen. For now, let’s enjoy this moment.