Dontaie Allen leads Kentucky basketball to double overtime win at Mississippi State

Jon Hale
Louisville Courier Journal

Score one for Big Blue Nation.

After weeks of fans questioning why Kentucky coach John Calipari was not playing former Pendleton County star Dontaie Allen, the former Mr. Kentucky Basketball hit seven 3s to lead Kentucky to a 78-73 double overtime win at Mississippi State, snapping the Wildcats' six-game losing streak.

"if you put the work in when you get your opportunity, you know you’re going to be ready," Allen said. "... I was just waiting for my opportunity, and I feel like I capitalized on it."

Kentucky played the final 9:04 of regulation and overtime without Calipari after he was ejected following back-to-back technical fouls for arguing with an official.

Calipari seemed to foreshadow he might get thrown out of a game soon when he noted before the Louisville rivalry game just more than a week ago that last season's UK team did not find its groove until being forced to play without him following an ejection at Arkansas last season.

Calipari stayed on the sideline for the entire loss to Louisville, but with his team trailing 56-43 midway through the second half Saturday at Mississippi State, he went back to that strategy by arguing a no-call on what he claimed should have been a carry against the Bulldogs long enough to draw two technical fouls and an ejection.

While Calipari has often skipped news conferences following games in which he was ejected, he met with reporters via Zoom Saturday and confirmed he was intentionally trying to draw at least the first technical foul.

"When I walked off, I said this is either going to be a good thing or a bad thing," Calipari said. "... Now I’m saying this could turn into the same thing (as Arkansas)."

Kentucky players responded by scoring 10 straight points after the technical free throws, and Allen gave the Wildcats a 56-55 lead with 5:08 remaining, Kentucky's first lead since the 5:54 mark in the first half. 

More:John Calipari is in full spin mode as Kentucky basketball's slump continues

The teams traded baskets down the stretch until a defensive stop from Kentucky earned the Wildcats a final possession tied at 61 with 14 seconds left. Kentucky found a shot for Allen on the possession, but his 3 bounced off the rim and the Wildcats missed two put-back chances before the buzzer to send the game to overtime. 

Allen gave Kentucky a 68-65 lead with 1:08 left in overtime with his sixth 3 of the game, but Mississippi State answered with a 3 from Iverson Molinar. A Kentucky turnover gave the Bulldogs the ball back with 15 seconds remaining, but Molinar missed a 3 at the buzzer to send the game to a second overtime period.

Kentucky led throughout the second overtime period. Allen delivered the crucial blows again with a long 2-pointer he banked in as the shot clock was winding down with 3:24 left and his seventh 3 on the next possession to stretch the lead to six at 76-70.

"Now, all of Kentucky is going crazy," Calipari said, praising Allen for his attitude and work ethic while he was not playing. "You know what? You can say, 'Cal, you screwed this season up.' Maybe I did, but I’ll tell you this. I say it every year: Every one of these kids will get a chance to prove they should play more or less. They will get a chance.

"Some guys don’t take advantage like Dontaie did. Dontaie took advantage. This is a big-time win now."

Allen finished the game with 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting. He played the final three minutes of regulation and all of the two overtimes in place of top-five recruit Brandon Boston, who was 4 for 13 in the game. Allen scored 17 of his points after Calipari was ejected.

Senior center Olivier Sarr bounced back from consecutive poor performances with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Boston and freshman point guard Devin Askew, starting in place of injured Terrence Clarke, joined them in double figures with 11 points each. Askew staked a claim to the full-time point guard job with six assists and three turnovers.

Earlier:Why did Dontaie Allen not play for Kentucky basketball against Louisville?

Freshman forward Lance Ware grabbed 12 rebounds. Graduate transfer guard Davion Mintz was just 3 for 10 from the field but scored a key basket in the first overtime period to keep the score within one possession. Sophomore forward Jacob Toppin tied the game in the first overtime with a put-back layup.

To build on Kentucky's second win of the season and ensure SEC play will not be a repeat of the 1-6 start to the season, the Wildcats will need varied contributions like those.

But Saturday's win was about Allen, who had made just two shots all season in games that counted but hit 6 of 10 3s in a closed scrimmage against Division III Transylvania on Tuesday.

"I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a moment where I was in my head a little bit, but I always reminded myself, I come back to my work," Allen said. "I put the work in, so what do I have to fear, what do I have to be scared of in any opportunity, any moment?"

Email Jon Hale at jahale@courier-journal.com; Follow him on Twitter at @JonHale_CJ