LEXINGTON - Terrence Jones got a lot of chances to smile Saturday during Kentucky’s 73-72 win over North Carolina that should keep UK¿No. 1 in the national rankings this week.
Jones had 14 points, seven rebounds, three blocked shots, two steals and one assist in 35 minutes against the nation’s fifth-ranked team in a matchup that attracted 28 NBA scouts as well as numerous national media members.
Several of Jones’ biggest smiles came in the first half after he scored because his mother was sitting just a few rows behind the UK¿basket.
“Just excited, happy. Just a fun thing to do. Playing in a game like this against North Carolina with them having all the players they have and us having all the playes we have, it’s just a fun game and that’s why I was smiling,” Jones said.
However, he finally admitted he knew exactly where his mother, and grandmother, were sitting.
“I do look at my mom. I do. It’s hard not to,” he said. “She is who I¿look at as my No. 1 fan and who I always have tried to impress my whole life playing basketball. I know she notices. I can’t help it. I am sure she is proud and I¿love when she can get here (from Portland, Ore.) to watch me play. That does make it a little more special.”
Question: How did you feel freshman Kyle Wiltjer played in his limited role against North Carolina?
Jones: “I felt he played well and really helped change the game. When him and Darius (Miller) came in and me and Mike (Kidd-Gilchrist) were on the bench, they got three stops in a row with with Ant (Anthony Davis) scoring a hook, Kyle scoring up and under that really changed the game around and just gave us more energy to get the crowd behind us.”
Question: What about the play of freshman point guard Marquis Teague, who had only one turnover but was just 2-for-9 from the field and missed a free throw with less than a minute to play?
Jones: “This was his first big game as a point guard and we had to run our offense in the second half and he did it. It is real tough on him always being compared to John Wall or Brandon Knight. Just to have the ability to have the ball in your hands so much and to make the decisions when to shoot, when to pass when we have guys like me, Mike (Kidd-Gilchrist), Anthony, Doron (Lamb) all around you. To make the decision when to shoot and when to pass, it can be stressful. I¿know it is tough, especially as a freshman. But he did fine.”
Question: Does it help him having sophomore Doron Lamb able to play the point at times?
Jones: “Doron’s a veteran player. He knows the offense. He’s ran it for a year. I just think he can really look for Doron to get it right for him on what to read and what to do running plays. Doron is a huge help to him.”
Question: How much did you enjoy baiting the North Carolina defender into fouling you on a 3-point shot?
Jones: “Yeah, I liked that. I just wanted to give the team energy and let them know we were still in the game and not to get down just because we got down early. There was still a lot of time early.”
Question: How much does it help when Doron Lamb takes over scoring-wise like he did the second half when he had 10 points in nine minutes?
Jones: “I told him he is a key for us. He’s big for our offense when he’s knocking down shots. I felt he really changed the game for us like he can.”
Question: When you are playing in a game like that, do you even have time to appreciate how good the game is?
Jones: “I know it was real good, but I was just nervous and trying to win each play. Each possession is so crucial in games like that. We just try to get possession of rebounds. They were crashing so hard that we just had to try and maintain possession. It was just fun.”
Question: How much does the competition in practice help prepare you for a game like North Carolina?
Jones: “It helps a lot and we have to go hard and Coach does not settle for anything less, which really helps everyone. We all just come into practice and go as hard as we can and try to be on the same page and get better. That really helps us.”
Question: How much do you think Anthony Davis’ length bothered North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller?
Jones: “A lot. I feel our game plan hedge on one block, trap on the other really bothered them. Coach set up a great game plan for that. We trapped sometimes, don’t trap sometimes. Just mess with them a little bit. I felt just messing with your head not knowing if a trap was coming or not when you post up gets to you and Ant (Davis) played him well as a freshman and him being an older, strong guy.”
Question: What did you see on the final play when Davis blocked John Henson’s shot after you helped knock the ball away from Zeller?
Jones: “I knew they were going at Zeller. I was going to go (help) and he lost the ball. It went over to John. I couldn’t get there and Ant sprinted over and he got it. It was just a great thing to happen.”
Question: Have you ever heard Rupp Arena any louder than after that block?
Jones: “I couldn’t even pay attention. I was so excited myself.”
Question: What did you think of the play of your freshmen teammates overall?
Jones: “I think early they played their roles well. For them to play in a game like this and play as well as they did and step up and make shots, it takes a lot of maturity. I just think they did a real good job.”
Question: How much hype did you hear leading up to this game?
Jones: “A lot. I was trying to convince the guys it was not that big of a deal to ease the pressure, but it was hard to do because there was so much hype. Personally, I¿knew it was just a game. Teams can get so much better from now until the end of the year, so there really was not that much pressure on this one game.”