Welcome back, Terrance Jones.
Though it would not be correct to describe the Kentucky sophomore as "missing in action" in conference play -- after all, he scored in double figures in the Wildcats' first six SEC games -- Jones hadn't really stepped up his game as expected from his freshman season.
Until the Wildcats' win at LSU, that is.
Jones was his old self against the Tigers, scoring a season-high 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting, just missing a double-double with nine rebounds, and running the court like a 6-3 guard instead of the 6-8 forward he is.
He blocked shots (three for the game), and then ended up on the scoring end of fast breaks at the other on the same sequence. He also had an assist and two steals.
"When he went after that ball, four-straight jumps, come on, that's what we've all been waiting on," coach John Calipari said. "It's what we've all been waiting on, and he makes us different."
With Jones at the top of his game, and freshman Anthony Davis and senior Darius Miller enjoying big games with 16 and 13 points, respectively, the Wildcats ran away for a 74-50 rout of the Tigers that stretched their winning streak to 12 games since the Dec 10 loss at Indiana.
The Wildcats were 21-1 overall, 7-0 in the SEC, as they prepared for a home game against Tennessee to finish up January and a trip to South Carolina to start February.
-Sophomore Terrance Jones earned the praise of his teammates for his play in Kentucky's win at LSU.
"He is a key part of the team and one of our best players," senior Darius Miller said. "When he has it going, it makes it a lot easier for everyone else.
"It opens up everybody else because they are going to have to double-team him. When he's playing how he is playing, it is great for us too."
Jones had one stretch where he scored Kentucky's last four points of the first half and the first nine points of the second.
"He was scoring at will in the post," freshman PG Marquis Teague said. "He had anything he wanted. If he drew a double team, he would kick it out and make the right play. We were trying to feed him the ball."
-The talk pregame was of the matchup of freshman point guards Marquis Teague and Anthony Hickey of LSU.
Out of Hopkinsville, Hickey was Kentucky high school's Mr. Basketball last season and supposedly was passed on by UK coach John Calipari, who went with Indianapolis-product Teague.
Neither player produced spectacular numbers. Both were 2-of-6 from the field, but Teague ended up with six points, four assists, and one turnover to Hickey's five points, five assists, and no turnovers. Hickey also fouled out.
-Freshman F Anthony Davis had to be battered and bruised by the end of the game after getting knocked to the floor several times, including once on a takedown by LSU F Malcolm White that was ruled a Flagrant 2 foul and led to White's ejection.
Davis finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season, one shy of the school freshman record. He added three blocks, giving him 101 for the season.
THIS WEEK'S GAMES
vs. Tennessee, Jan. 31
The Vols are getting good play out of Jeronne Maymon and newcomer Jarnell Stokes up front. Sophomore G Trae Golden is their leading scorer (13.1) and a good three-point shooter.
at South Carolina, Feb. 4
G Bruce Ellington has not really been the consistent leader he was as a freshman a year ago, perhaps because he is still getting acclimated to basketball after playing for the football team in the fall. F Malik Cooke is a steady hand up front, but overall the Gamecocks don't have the firepower to stay with the Wildcats.
Could a lack of depth eventually catch up to the Wildcats? Coach John Calipari has been going with pretty much a seven-man rotation for the bulk of the season. That unit has been dominant in the SEC, but it could eventually take a toll when the Wildcats get into tournament play. Senior F Eloy Vargas, who hasn't played in three games since getting on the court for two minutes against Arkansas on Jan. 17, could make a big difference if could contribute more, not necessarily with big numbers but just his presence.
Freshman F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist managed only one point against LSU, missing all five of his field goal attempts, but had eight rebounds, giving him 19 in his last two games. He had 11 vs. Georgia.
Sophomore G Doron Lamb was 2-of-4 from three-point range against LSU, the fourth straight time he has hit at least two treys in a game.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"He just takes a lot of pressure off these young kids, and he needs to. He and Darius and Doron, this should be their team, not the freshman team. This team should be their team." -- Coach John Calipari, talking of the role sophomores Terrance Jones and Doron Lamb, and senior Darius Miller should play for Kentucky.