A second consecutive disappearance from Willie Cauley-Stein meant more minutes for Dakari Johnson — and he did not disappoint. Johnson’s four points and four rebounds don’t exactly jump off the page, but he played well off the bench in his 16 minutes, well above his season average of nine minutes per contest.
“Willie didn’t play as well as he’d been playing and we went with Dakari, and he was terrific,” Calipari said in his postgame press conference.
Johnson was able to bang inside with Tennessee’s bigs — man, they were big — and he provided a spark early in the second half when Kentucky made its run. I can remember one sequence in particular when Dakari got an offensive rebound, scored, got the defensive rebound on the other end, and led the break (for three or four dribbles) the other way. Andrew Harrison should’ve kicked it back to Dakari to reward him for his hustle running the flooring (and he was wide open) but Andrew drew a foul going against two defenders instead. Dakari waved his arms toward the crowd to fire everyone up after the run.
Dakari told us after the game he was just trying to have fun out there, following Cal’s message before they took the court. He wasn’t ready to call it his breakout performance — he said it was Andrew’s — but he said he has been working hard to stay active on the defensive end, and it showed.
Great game from Dakari, when UK needed him most. Gotta get more from Willie, though.