UK Basketball: Terrence Jones having fun, getting his swagger back
Kentucky¿s Terrence Jones gets one of his five blocked shots Tuesday. The sophomore also had 13 points and nine rebounds in the Wildcats¿ win over Arkansas. (Victoria Graff)
Jones didn’t have the career performance that freshman Anthony Davis had in the Wildcats’ 86-63 win over Arkansas on Tuesday night, but his final numbers that featured 13 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots were pleasing to his coach. Davis just missed a triple-double with 27 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks and became the school’s all-time single-season block leader with 89, but Jones was equally effective in the post.
Kentucky coach John Calipari included Jones in the same sentence as teammates Davis and Marquis Teague following his team’s relatively easy victory over the Razorbacks that pushed the Cats’ winning streak to 10 games, including a perfect 4-0 mark in the Southeastern Conference. Calipari said Jones is “getting closer” to the player who was a pre-season all-american candidate and one step closer to regaining his superstar status after an injury to his pinky finger brought his season to a standstill last month. Since returning to the lineup against Lamar on Dec. 28, the sophomore forward has tallied double figures ibn five consecutive games.
Jones is suddenly getting his swagger back on both ends of the court. He’s also changed his mentality and approach, which also has contributed to his successfull performances during the past two weeks.
“I’m just not thinking as much,” Jones said. “I’m just trying to do as much as I can (to help the team). I’ve just been less conscience about my hand. (I was) just thinking too much about every little play and wanted to get back to having fun, getting out there and just playing.”
Jones admitted that his finger isn’t completely healed or even at 100 percent, but isn’t using the injury as an excuse or dwelling on the pain at times.
“I just go out there and try to play,” he said.
Against the revamped Razorbacks, Jones enjoyed watching Davis throw down lob dunks and block shots by the guests in the post and got a close-up view of his performance.
“It was a great all-around performance,” he said. “He was hustling on offense and on defense. When his man would step up, he was available for the lob. He was getting ‘and-ones’ and put backs. Having that ability is what changed the game and makes him such a special player.”
Kentucky was forced to play an up-tempo style against the Razorbacks and it suited Jones just fine. He also liked having Davis on the other side in the post in case of a potential breakdown in transition.
“It just gives you more comfort knowing that he’s back there and he’s going to try to help you if you get beat and it gives you confidence on defense knowing that if you do get beat, he’s at least going to alter (the shot) or block it,” he said. “It’s how we play defense, knowing that he’s back there and we’re going to make plays like that.”
Jones enjoyed playing the up-tempo style that Arkansas employs and said the Cats were focused from the opening tip in its return to Rupp Arena following road encounters at Auburn and Tennessee last week.
“We came out with high energy,” he said. “Everybody just stayed focused. We been having good practice and juts focusing on being really physical and just trying to improve. With everybody having energy like that (at the beginning of the game), the whole week in practice helped us prepare for this and it (flowed) over into the game.”
Indeed, the Cats were indeed ready for the Hogs.