Just taking a look at the box score, one would assume Dontaie Allen had a second consecutive standout performance for Kentucky, and that assumption would be correct. Finishing with 14 points on 4-10 shooting, 2-5 from three and 4-4 from the line to go with five rebounds and one block in 32 minutes, there was a lot of good that came with the redshirt freshman’s play.
But it wasn’t all positive, specifically on the defensive end of the floor. And UK head coach John Calipari noticed.
“Dontaie broke down a ton defensively,” Calipari said. “He made baskets and free throws when we needed it, but he may have given up as many baskets as he scored.”
The thing is, his offense is too valuable to take off the floor.
“I told him, “Look, if that’s the case and it’s even-steven, I’m probably good with you.” But (he’s) got to get to where… they were game- planning stuff. He went under a screen, they did some stuff,” Calipari said. “But, I’m telling you, he deserves to be on that court. You know what he does to the defense, he spreads out the defense. I ran a play for him, banged a three. Right to the top, boom. That may have been out of a timeout.”
Luckily for the Wildcats, Calipari believes Allen’s defensive mistakes can and will be fixed, giving a few examples of the in-game situations.
“No, no, no (they won’t be hard to fix),” Calipari said. “And he rebounded the ball, had a couple rebounds. I’ll give you an example. If your man was getting screened and didn’t have the ball, we’re chasing that. He went inside and his man made a three. If your man is getting a dribble handoff, we were not going over that, we were going under that. He went over that. If your man was going through the lane to the weak side, you were to stop with both feet in the lane on the other side of the basket to where you left. He went out there twice outside the lane and wasn’t ready to switch to a guy he needed to switch to because he wasn’t where he was supposed to. We spent two days on it. But he’s not the only one. Isaiah did it, Davion did it a couple times.”
Right now, the total number of breakdowns is anywhere from seven to nine. If he can get that number down to just a handful, UK is in good shape.
“He had some breakdowns,” Calipari said. “You know what? Like I told him after, “You had seven or eight breakdowns, nine (maybe)? Let’s get it to four, and then keep making shots. Just keep making shots, kid.” Look, you’re going to give up something sometimes, and he’s trying. He’s got courage.
“What he’s doing for us, we can’t replace it. I just have to figure out how I get him better on defense or more comfortable.”
Senior center Olivier Sarr added that Allen “changes the game” for Kentucky on the offensive end of the floor.
“Obviously he’s a knockdown shooter, he showed it last game and this game again,” Sarr said. “It makes the defense worried about him. It’s self explanatory. He opens the court for everybody. It changes the game, makes it easier for us to operate and play our game, get to the game. He opens the court a lot.”
There are still defensive miscues to work through, but this team is at its best when Allen is shooting the ball and knocking down shots.
“Dontaie wants to do what’s best for the team, and what’s best for us is him shooting threes,” Sarr said. “It opens up for us. He still has to find a way to get these threes off because he’s so great of a shooter.”