Kentucky Gets 3rd Win of the Season as Sarr Shines, Late Mintz 3 Propels Wildcats vs Vandy
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The Kentucky Wildcats (3-6) beat the Vanderbilt Commodores (4-4), 77-74 in Lexington, KY.
Coming off their first win in seven games against the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Jan. 2nd, the Kentucky Wildcats continued their good run of play on Tuesday against Vanderbilt. After Dontaie Allen's 23 points on 7/11 shooting from deep against Mississippi State, Head Coach John Calipari went with a slight tweak in his starting lineup. With the steady back court duo of freshman Devin Askew and senior Davion Mintz, freshman Lance Ware would get his first collegiate start alongside fellow freshman Brandon Boston Jr. and senior Olivier Sarr. Ware started in place of the struggling big man Isaiah Jackson, and the hot-handed Dontaie Allen would come off the bench on Tuesday night.
After 4 quick points and an assist to Isaiah Jackson, Olivier Sarr got his night going early through the first five minutes of play. In a back-and-forth run of play, the Cats and Vandy couldn't pull away from one another. Vanderbilt seemed to be on fire from deep as they made 8 threes compared to UK's 1. Vandy's Myles Stute and Jordan Wright connected on 3 threes a piece, and Dylan Disu contributed 2 of his own. Olivier Sarr was clean and fundamental in the post and he got to the free throw line very frequently. Sarr had 15 points at the break and was 9/10 from the free throw line. Dontaie Allen contributed 4 points off the bench and spaced the floor out well for the Wildcats. Allen's three-point shooting ability allowed the Cats to get open looks because Vanderbilt defenders were so occupied with him. Vanderbilt's Scotty Pippen Jr. was the facilitator for the Commodore offense as he contributed 10 points and 6 assists. Not quite sure why he’s a "Jr" though, don't know who his dad might be. At the break, the Commodores were up 40-33 at Rupp Arena.
Although the Wildcats were down at the break, there was a lot to look forward to in the second half. If Rupp Arena had been filled with fans, the Cats would have gotten a standing ovation as they ran onto the court to begin the half. Despite the deficit, the Cats were able to knot up the game 40-40 after an Askew layup, an Allen deep ball, and a Sarr jumper. Much like the first half, neither team was able to pull away and kept it close until the final whistle. From a broader view, this game was a high-scoring night for the Wildcats. They average 67.7 points per game and in the tough SEC conference, they are going to need high scoring games moving forward. The game came down to the last minute of play. Pippen Jr. was able to get a majority of his shots inside fall amongst the Kentucky bigs. After his 2 made free throws to tie the game up at 74 with just over a minute to go, the Wildcats needed a big shot, but who would it come from? With an inside drive late in the shot clock, Devin Askew kicked it out to the left corner for a Davion Mintz 3. After a few possessions under a minute and a Jacob Toppin block on Pippen Jr., the Wildcats were able to hold onto the 77-74 victory against the Commodores.
Olivier Sarr: 24 points, 7 rebounds, 14/17 free throws
Dontaie Allen: 14 points, 5 rebounds
Davion Mintz: 11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists
Devin Askew: 11 points, 3 assists, 3 steals
Scotty Pippen Jr: 18 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists
Dylan Disu: 18 points, 10 rebounds
Jordan Wright: 18 points, 8 rebounds
Myles Stute: 16 points, 6 rebounds, 4/9 3-pointers
A 2-0 start for the Kentucky Wildcats to start the new year and SEC play, the Cats seem to be getting the ball rolling for Big Blue Nation. However, "jobs not finished," the job has only just begun for the Cats. Coach Cal will continue to work on this team so just be patient and everything will work out for these young guys. It always does.
The Wildcats take on the Florida Gators at 5:00 p.m. on Jan. 9th in Gainesville, FL. The SEC match-up can be seen on ESPN.