NEW ORLEANS — Kentucky's one-for-all approach probably made Terrence Jones shy from the suggestion he brought a personal purpose to the Southeastern Conference Tournament. But teammate Anthony Davis insisted it was true.
"He just wants to prove people wrong," Davis said after UK beat Florida 74-71 Saturday.
Davis described Jones' attitude as "I want to guard him (and) give me the ball."
If true, Jones preferred to keep any effort to prove something here in a team context. "That we're the No. 1 team in the country, and we have the best players," he said.
Never miss a local story.
Yet, Davis noted specific points that Jones wanted to prove.
"Rumors that he's soft, he's not making plays, he avoids contact," Davis said. "You saw today, he wasn't avoiding contact. He was trying to dunk everything. I love it."
After posting only one double-double in the regular season, Jones came close to back-to-back double-doubles here. He scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds against Florida. In Friday's victory over LSU, he had 15 points and 11 rebounds.
"A lot of guys say I'm the key," Jones said. " ... I just know I'm going to play like I'm playing now."
After he went scoreless against LSU on Thursday, Darius Miller all but promised he'd be more productive against Florida. "I'll be better tomorrow," he said.
But Miller went scoreless against Florida. That marked only the fourth time in his career, and the first time since his sophomore season, that he did not score in back-to-back games.
"Another tough game," Miller said before adding, "I've seen worse."
In his four UK seasons, Miller has not had three straight scoreless games.
"I've experienced worse," Miller said. "My freshman year we kind of went to the NIT. Last year I kind of struggled in a few games. I've struggled in games before. I'm not worried about it."
Vandy played UK competitively over 80 minutes during the regular season. UK scored 15 more points. Though Vandy had 10 more three-pointers (15-5), UK dominated the points from the paint (94-54).
In both games, UK outplayed Vandy in the final minutes to win.
"The first game, I kind of blame on us because we just made poor choices," Vandy Coach Kevin Stallings said. "And we had opportunities and didn't make them, didn't make the plays.
"And the second time, they were just on top of us more. And the reason they're something-and-one, whatever it is, is because they have a unique ability to kind of crank up the heat and crank the ratchet up whatever it takes to get the job done. Just like they did today (against Florida)."
Stallings took pleasure in Vandy beating Georgia on Friday and Ole Miss on Saturday despite not shooting well. The Commodores made only 15 of 54 three-point shots (27.8 percent) in those games. Yet Vandy won those games by an average margin of 17 points.
Vandy won with defense (Georgia and Ole Miss made 36 percent of their shots and only five of 25 three-point attempts) and rebounding. Ole Miss, which lives off offensive rebounding, had only four.
"It was refreshing," Stallings said, "because we have been called a lot of things this year, a lot of unflattering things. One-dimensional is one of them.
"And I think that the last two days we have shown that we're not one-dimensional. We can guard. We can rebound. And we can shoot, too."
Oh those refs
Florida Coach Billy Donovan noted that his team shot only two free throws while Kentucky shot 20.
"The difference in the game, to me, ... " Donovan said. "By far the most physical game that we have played in all year. How we only got there two times is beyond me."
Donovan said he would speak with the SEC office about the officiating in the Florida-UK game.
"And I'll have a lot to say, too," he said.
Donovan said his center, Patric Young got "pushed in the back constantly, constantly, and there's just no whistle.
"I mean, to me, it's really hard to overcome 20 free throws to two. There's no way in a game like that. I could see if Kentucky was playing two-three zone and didn't touch anybody."
Florida's two free throws were the fewest taken by a UK opponent since South Dakota State made one of two on Nov. 13, 2005.
Through two games in the SEC Tournament, UK had made 38 of 53 free throws. Opponents (LSU and Florida) have made 10 of 12.
Cautious about seed
Jones did not take for granted that UK will be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
"We have no control over that," he said. "I learned that last year. I thought that game (the SEC Tournament title game) would do a lot of good things for us. It didn't do anything for us."
Vandy center Festus Ezeli disagreed with a reporter's contention the SEC Tournament game will be quickly forgotten as the focus shifts to the NCAA Tournament later in the day.
"I'll be talking about this to my kids for a long time," he said.
Davis moved into position to become only the fifth UK player to be named SEC Player of the Year and SEC Tournament Most Valuable Player in the same year. The others were Ron Mercer (1997), Tayshaun Prince (2001), Keith Bogans (2003) and John Wall (2010).
The only other league players to sweep those awards are Dominique Wilkins of Georgia (1981), Charles Barkley of Auburn (1984) and Derrick McKey of Alabama (1987).
Through two games, Davis averaged 13.5 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks.
His two blocks against Florida moved Davis past Patrick Patterson (152) for seventh on UK's career list. He's one shy of No. 6 Jules Camara (155).