Getting Terrence Jones fully healthy may be one thing John Calipari will want during the Christmas break. His other star sophomore might want to work right through it.
Before getting some time off for the holiday, third-ranked Kentucky may look to Doron Lamb for another standout performance if Jones remains unavailable Thursday night for a matchup with visiting Loyola (Md.).
Jones, the team's top returning scorer and rebounder, hadn't missed a game in his Wildcats career before sitting out Tuesday's 82-50 victory over Samford. The preseason All-American dislocated his left pinky three days earlier in an 87-62 win over Chattanooga and was limited to 10 minutes.
Calipari didn't sound optimistic about a return Thursday, maybe thinking it's better to give Jones extra time to heal considering Kentucky doesn't play again until next Wednesday against Lamar.
"He wants to play tomorrow but I may not let him," Calipari said Wednesday.
Lamb stepping up is a big reason why the Wildcats (10-1) still dominated the last two games, which followed their stunning last-second loss at Indiana on Dec. 10. He scored 24 points Saturday and matched a season high with 26 on Monday.
The 6-foot-4 guard had a career-high six rebounds and hit four 3-pointers in each of those wins, shooting a combined 18 of 29 from the field and totaling only one turnover in 61 minutes.
"Doron, because he is spending that extra time, is starting to play different," Calipari said. "He is playing more assertive, he's not in to himself, he's talking more."
Lamb, who reached 20 points only once in his first nine games, has been going to the gym early of late to work on conditioning and get in extra shooting before practice. He's averaging a team-best 16.7 points after scoring 12.3 per game last season.
"It is worth it, dog," Lamb said of the additional work. "I've just got to keep doing what I'm doing so far, keep that up. It's paying off."
Senior Darius Miller could make a second straight start in place of Jones after scoring 17 points Tuesday.
Another reason Calipari might not mind having Jones sit out is that the Wildcats, winners of 41 straight at home, aren't exactly facing a formidable opponent. Loyola, which has never played Kentucky, has met seven ranked teams over the past decade and lost all of those games by at least 23 points.
Calipari clearly would never admit to taking this game lightly, even explaining why the Greyhounds (8-2) could present a challenge.
"They are going to come after us and press, they will not back down," he said. "... They've got good players, they are physical, they are older and they shoot the 3.
"The two games they lost they had a chance to win both of them, they could have come in here (10-0)."
Loyola opened the season with a 73-65 loss at Wake Forest, then won eight straight before falling 76-66 at St. Bonaventure on Sunday. That defeat ended the program's longest win streak since the 1964-65 season.
Justin Drummond scored a career-high 26 points off the bench after failing to reach double figures in the previous three games.
Dylon Cormier tops the Greyhounds with 16.8 points per game but was held to a season-low seven Sunday. Second-leading scorer Erik Etherly has totaled eight points in the past two games after reaching double figures in eight straight.