Vicky Graff Photo
If I remember correctly freshman Rob Dillingham had 35 points in Kentucky’s loss to Tennessee when UK desperately needed his offense. He came back with not only 20 points at Vanderbilt but also nine assists when he concentrated on sharing the ball after scoring 13 points by the midway point of the first half.
Going into Saturday’s marquee matchup with Gonzaga, Dillingham’s offense figured to be a huge plus for UK again. Instead, he had only six points on 2-for-6 shooting but UK coach John Calipari did a better job limiting his scoring than Gonzaga did.
Dillingham played 14 minutes in the first half when UK trailed 42-32 at halftime. In the second half, Dillingham played FOUR MINUTES.
A player being mentioned as a possible top-10 pick in the NBA draft mainly watched from the bench. How could that be?
“The team that was out there was playing so well together that I left it alone. And I told he (Dillingham) and D.J. (Wagner), that’s the only reason I left it alone,” Calipari said. “And if we ﬁnish the game – you would have said (you didn’t need him), but – now you look at it and say why didn’t you have him in?
“You’re right. We could have. But that group was playing so well that I didn’t go to the rotation.”
In fairness to Calipari, UK did score 53 points in the second half and was 18-for-30 from the field and 14-for-18 at the foul line. That’s a potent half offensively and Dillingham is not exactly a defensive stopper but UK’s defensive woes were mainly on the inside.
However, down two late in the game and desperately needing a basket or a 3-pointer to win the game, Dillingham was watching from the bench when Reed Sheppard underthrew a lob pass to a well-defended Adou Thiero that turned into a Gonzaga steal.
It’s hard to understand not having your most dynamic offensive player in the game in the final seconds and Calipari is right that Kentucky fans should wonder why he was not in the game.