Mark Story: Terrence Jones rises to defensive occasion

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistMarch 17, 2012 

LOUISVILLE — To get another shot at Indiana, Terrence Jones had to combat the burly bear that is Royce White.

Time after time, White, the 6-foot-7, 270-pound Iowa State star, would use his bulk in Saturday night's game to work his way under the bucket.

Almost every time, Kentucky's 6-8, 242-pound Jones used his body as resistance.

"I've got a lot of bruises," Jones said. "But I think I did a pretty good job."

As crazy as it sounds in a game where White had 23 points and nine rebounds, Jones was right.

Looking every bit like an impending national champion, Kentucky put a withering second-half run on Iowa State and rolled into the NCAA Tournament South Regional semifinals with an 87-71 victory before 21,757 mostly Cats fans in KFC Yum Center.

What should be scary for upcoming Kentucky foes is that the Cats showed strength against Iowa State in every area supposed to be a weakness.

Cats shaky at point guard? Marquis Teague lit up Louisville with 24 points and seven assists.

Kentucky perimeter shooting suspect? UK hit 10 of 20 three-pointers.

Questions about the assertiveness of sixth man Darius Miller? The Mason County product was searching out shots, ripping rebounds from the hands of opponents and finished with 19 points and seven boards.

Finally there was Jones. From the time he turned in a bit of a disappearing act in Kentucky's 73-72 upset loss at Indiana in December, the question has lingered:

When it really matters, can you depend on Jones?

Saturday night in the Derby City, his performance suggested the answer was yes.

The guy who had been Kentucky's most consistent scorer in tourney play was asked instead to take a primarily defensive role against Iowa State (23-11) and its star, White.

A player with point guard skills and a power forward's body, White might be the toughest "guard" in the country.

He was impressive in the Derby City, finishing with 23 points, nine rebounds and four assists before fouling out.

Yet Jones played him just as UK Coach John Calipari had designed. In a throwback to how Adolph Rupp's teams used to try to stop Pete Maravich, the plan was to play White straight up.

"The plan was for me not to get help," Jones said. "We knew (White) would score some. We didn't want the other guys to go off. It was fun, playing against a player like him. I enjoyed the challenge."

It worked well enough that Kentucky, breaking from a 42-all tie early in the second half, won going away.

For Jones, it was an impressive show of maturity that he was willing to play a primarily defensive role and sacrifice some of his offense.

"They were doubling down on me," he said. "I feel like they came in wanting to really stop me. I just tried to move the ball."

The Portland, Ore., product finished with eight points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.

"He did a really good job on White," said Kentucky backup forward Kyle Wiltjer. "And he did a good job driving the ball at him, which helped foul him out."

Now, Kentucky (34-2) has earned a shot at Indiana in Atlanta on Friday in the NCAA tourney round of 16.

One would think Jones is the happiest man in America with Kentucky getting a second shot at IU. In Bloomington on Dec. 10, Jones had four points and one rebound in 28 listless minutes. By the end of the nail-biter, Calipari had him on the bench.

But if the Kentucky forward has a personal point to prove to the Hoosiers, he's keeping it to himself.

"I'm not looking to go into this game and do anything out of order," Jones said. "On the team we have, anybody is capable of having a big night. I don't feel like I have to prove anything in the game. I just want to win."

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Email: mstory@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: markstory.bloginky.com

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