New Year, New Start For Kentucky
First Caturday of the Year Sees UK Football Winning the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl and UK Basketball Winning in 2OT
*Image property of Lexington Herald Leader
Football vs NC State
In a season unlike any other, the Kentucky Wildcats football team beat the NC State Wolfpack in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, 23-21. The Wildcats (4-6) traveled down to Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday to face the 23rd-ranked Wolfpack (8-3) in an unfamiliar matchup. After a season full of COVID-19 protocols, emotional struggles with players and coaches, and overall uncertainty, the Wildcats were able to pull off a win in their final game of the 2020 season, and started the new year off right.
Run Game for Kentucky Continues Success
A.J. Rose led the day for the Cats as he finished with 148 rushing yards and took home the game’s MVP trophy. The Kentucky run game has been a strength for the Cats all season as their passing game struggled, and they used a 3-headed attack on Saturday. The trio of A.J. Rose, Chris Rodriguez Jr., and Kavosiey Smoke combined for 277 yards and two touchdowns on the afternoon against a good NC State team. Kentucky outrushed the Wolfpack 281 yards to 50, which was a clear difference maker in the game’s outcome.
On the day, NC State QB Bailey Hockman threw three interceptions during the afternoon with some of them coming during decisive plays during the game. Hockman was 27-40 and threw for 268 yards. Kentucky QB Terry Wilson was 12-20 for 99 yards. Wilson had a relatively easy day because the Wildcats’ run game was so effective.
UK Defense Comes Up Big Late
Kentucky’s Jamin Davis capped off his great season with a big interception late in the 4th quarter that would lead to a UK touchdown to put the Cats up 23-14 with 3:02 left in the game. Davis also had 13 tackles on the afternoon, which was his 8th double-digit tackle game of the year, and ½ a sack. The Wildcats finished the game with 3 sacks and 3 interceptions.
Terry Wilson: 12/20 for 99 yds
A.J. Rose: 12 carries for 148 yds
Chris Rodriguez Jr: 17 carries for 84 yds, 2 TDs
Kavosiey Smoke: 9 carries for 45 yards
Jamin Davis: 13 tackles, ½ sack, 1 INT
Brandin Echols & Yusuf Corker: 1 INT each
This win marked Kentucky’s third straight bowl game victory, and Head Coach Mark Stoops has a lot to look forward to heading into the 2021 season.
*Image property of Kentucky Today
Basketball vs Mississippi State
Let me just say, we needed this.
The University of Kentucky Men’s basketball team headed down south to Starkville, Mississippi to open SEC conference play against the Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-3). While riding a 6-game losing streak, and posting the worst record to start a Kentucky basketball season in decades, the Cats desperately needed a win. Head Coach John Calipari went with the revived freshman Devin Askew and senior Davion Mintz in the UK backcourt, with freshmen Brandon Boston Jr. and Isaiah Jackson teaming up with senior Olivier Sarr in the frontcourt. Askew had struggled during the early games in the season but he has contributed well coming off the bench as of late.
With freshman Terrence Clarke ruled out due to injury, the Wildcats knew they would need key contributions from everyone. The first half started unexpectedly for the Cats. The Wildcats began the game by making three 3 pointers, coming from Sarr, Askew, and Mintz. The Wildcats have had a poor shooting percentage from behind the arc this season to say the least. They shoot 41.5% overall and 29.1% from behind the arc, which is not a good recipe for success. Devin Askew led the Wildcats in scoring for the first half with 7 points, but Mississippi State led 35-30 at the break. After much of Big Blue Nation expressed their interest in Coach Cal changing things up, I guess he listened. Freshman Dontaie Allen came off the bench to make a three pointer during the first half, but this was only the start.
The second period of play was very similar to the first in the fact that Mississippi State would trade buckets with Kentucky but stayed a few points ahead. The Kentucky Wildcats would see a turnaround in their season with 9:04 left to go in regulation, and it might not be what you would expect. After a no-call from the referees, Coach Cal was livid and eventually ejected from the game after two technical fouls in a row. How would this change their season altogether though? The answer is Dontaie Allen. Following Cal’s ejection, Allen would make 5 of his 7 total 3s and gave life to UK. Along with Dontaie Allen, Lance Ware and Jacob Toppin would also come into the game and provide key minutes for the Cats. Allen’s shooting down the stretch of the 2nd half brought the Cats back in reach of the lead, but missed opportunities by both teams would see the game tied at 61 at the end of regulation. We are headed to overtime.
The 5-minute OT period was back and forth much like the entire game had been. Another Dontaie Allen 3 was answered by Mississippi State’s Iverson Molinar. The Cats and the Bulldogs were all knotted up at 68 apiece and we were headed for a second overtime.
The second overtime really was all Dontaie Allen, and the Wildcats would end their 6-game skid once and for all. Allen would hit 2 huge 3s to give the Wildcats the 78 to 73 win in double overtime to open SEC play at 1-0 for Kentucky.
After scoring just 2 field goals and playing 20 total minutes all season, this game was truly something special for Dontaie Allen, a Kentucky native. In 32 minutes of play off the bench, Allen finished with 23 points on 8 for 13 shooting and 7 threes. Kentucky desperately needs a reliable three-point shooter and someone who can spread the floor out, and Allen is the answer. After Saturday night’s morale-boosting win, Coach Cal has no other option but to play Allen if we want to turn this thing around. Although the Wildcats played well, this was all Dontaie’s night, and it was something special.
Dontaie Allen: 23 points, 7/11 3s, 5 rebounds
Olivier Sarr: 14 points, 12 rebounds
Devin Askew: 11 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists
Brandon Boston Jr: 11 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist
Davion Mintz: 7 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists
The Kentucky Wildcats host Vanderbilt in Lexington, KY at Rupp Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 5th. The game can be seen on the SEC Network at 7:00 p.m.