Although Kentucky made All-America candidate Terrence Jones available to reporters after Wednesday night's game, his mysterious performance at Indiana 18 days earlier remained just that: a mystery.
Jones shed no light on what happened at Indiana, where he played almost indifferently. Coach John Calipari benched Jones in the final minutes, telling reporters afterward that to play the sophomore forward would hurt UK's chances to win.
"It happened," Jones said in an emotionless tone. "The game is over. We just have to move on. There's nothing I can do to change what happened."
Jones put any question about his play at Indiana (four points, one rebound, a career-high six turnovers) into a team context. Repeatedly, he told reporters that his performance was not important, especially when compared to winning or losing.
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"It's tough because we lost," he said of the many questions his poor performance raised. "Anything else doesn't matter to me."
When asked how he felt about Calipari benching him in the decisive final minutes at Indiana, Jones said, "It was Coach's call. I was just hoping they wouldn't score" in the game's final possession. Christian Watford hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Indiana a 73-72 victory.
Jones dismissed questions about the benching wounding his pride.
"I don't even think like that," he said. "I just hope to win. I don't care about being in or not being in."
On the weekend UK lost to Indiana, Jones' tweets suggested he cared. He noted how he'd remember the "haters" who had reacted to his poor play.
Jones noted after UK beat Lamar on Wednesday night that he was not referring to anyone in the "B-B-N," meaning the Big Blue Nation. He nodded in the affirmative when a reporter asked if the criticisms served as motivational fuel going forward.
"Just remembering it in every game," he said. "Just making sure it doesn't happen again."
When a reporter asked him about observers questioning his heart, Jones said such talk was from "nobody that I felt was important."
ESPN analyst Dick Vitale, who worked the Kentucky-Indiana game, questioned Jones' effort. "That's his opinion," Jones said. "I don't know what I could say to that."
Looking to the future, Jones acknowledged that the finger he dislocated against Chattanooga a week after the Indiana game was not completely healed. Could it hinder him when UK plays archrival Louisville on Saturday?
"I don't know," Jones said. "I just want to win. Anything else doesn't really matter to me."
Jones was not sure how he dislocated the pinky finger of his left (shooting) hand against Chattanooga.
"I honestly don't know," he said. "I felt a sharp pain and looked down."
Jones recalled putting up his forearm on a Chattanooga player in reaction to a backdoor cut. Perhaps the finger got caught in an opponent's jersey, he said.
Jones, who wore a protective wrap that held the pinky and ring fingers together, clearly wasn't 100 percent against Lamar. On his first basket, he drove the left side of the lane, but shot with his right hand as he neared the basket.
"It's harder shooting than dribbling," he said. "I don't have to touch (the ball) with my pinky when I'm dribbling."
Jones said he did not ask the medical staff about any risk of re-injury by playing.
Dykes gives U of L a chance
Not many teams could come into Rupp Arena and beat Kentucky. Louisville might be one of them.
That's how ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes sized up the Kentucky-Louisville game on Saturday.
"It's a really, really short list of teams that can come into Rupp Arena and win," said Dykes, who worked UK's game against Lamar Wednesday night. "But Louisville could be one of those teams."
Dykes, who has worked U of L's victories over Vanderbilt and Western Kentucky, gave Kentucky a decided advantage in sheer talent.
"Louisville's going to come in here with, I think, one possible future pro," said Dykes, who identified that player as sophomore center Gorgui Dieng. "Kentucky has probably six."
Yet, Dykes gave Louisville a chance, even though Kentucky is ranked No. 3 and unbeaten at home in John Calipari's three seasons as coach. The intensity of the rivalry makes it ripe for an anything-can-happen afternoon, he said.
Louisville is "truly better collectively," Dykes said, while Kentucky's size presents a problem for the Cardinals and any other opponent.
UK, U of L, Ohio State
An odd sense of satisfaction came over Lamar Coach Pat Knight as he watched tape of Kentucky.
"It feels weird, as a coach, you find yourself enjoying watching the opponents," Knight said before his team's Tuesday night practice. "That happened with these guys (the Cats), Ohio State and Louisville."
To explain this feeling, Knight said, "Because they're so good. Plus they have talent. Plus they have coaching."
Kentucky became the third Lamar opponent ranked in the top 10. As Knight saw it, UK shared a versatility with OSU and U of L that would be hard to corral. All three teams can exploit an opponent around the basket, on the perimeter, with shooting and with drives.
"You can't pinpoint one guy," Knight said.
As the Lamar coach saw it, Kentucky shared one other attribute with Ohio State and Louisville: Being a quality team in the national sense of the term.
"All three have a great chance to get to that Final Four," Knight said. "I hate saying that (because of) putting pressure on those guys."
Father knows best
Lamar entered the game ranked No. 35 nationally in free-throw accuracy. The Cardinals had made 74.3 percent of their foul shots.
To explain that accuracy, Knight credited a tactic he learned from his father, coaching icon Bob Knight. After every drill in practice, the Lamar players shoot free throws.
"In a two and one-half-hour practice, that's a lot of free throws," Pat Knight said.
Until Tuesday's practice, Knight had never been in Rupp Arena. When he played for Indiana, the games against UK alternated at Indianapolis and Louisville.
"I look at it as a Bucket List," he said of Rupp Arena. "Let's go to places that I never got to play in or coach at. It's great for these kids. I think you want (to experience) the atmosphere."
Strength of schedule
Going into the Lamar game, Kentucky's strength of schedule was outside the top 100 (No. 107, according to collegerpi.com).
The SEC did not hold great promise of giving UK's schedule rating a big boost. As many league teams had Ratings Percentage Indexes outside the top 100 (South Carolina, Auburn, Tennessee and Arkansas) as inside the top 50 (Alabama, Florida, Vandy and Ole Miss).
Louisville, which had an RPI of No. 6 before its loss to Georgetown Wednesday, figures to boost Kentucky's strength of schedule.