UK Men's Basketball

John Clay: Disappearance of Terrence Jones tough to explain

Kentucky Wildcats forward Terrence Jones (3) put in two of his  4 points as Indiana beat #1 Kentucky 73-72 on Saturday December 10, 2011  in Bloomington, IN.  Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Kentucky Wildcats forward Terrence Jones (3) put in two of his 4 points as Indiana beat #1 Kentucky 73-72 on Saturday December 10, 2011 in Bloomington, IN. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — After Christian Watford had hit the game-winning three-pointer spilling the joyous Indiana student body onto the floor, and John Calipari had made it safely to the post-game news conference, he said he was proud of his team.

He was proud of the way they played in a hostile environment.

"And we did it without Terrence Jones," he said. "He absolutely gave us a zero today, and that happens at times. But it's good to know that we can win without him."

Thing is, Kentucky didn't win.

The Cats shot 68 percent the second half, rallied from a harrowing 10-point deficit with 9:03 left to take the lead, to hold the lead right up to the final second, but ultimately couldn't overcome an affair to forget by their sophomore star.

Why the "zero"?

"You'd have to ask him," said Calipari, but we couldn't since the Portland native wasn't made available in the post-game news conferences.

What did you see?

"I didn't see a whole lot," answered Calipari. "I saw turnovers. I didn't see many rebounds."

In 28 frustrating minutes, Jones attempted a career-low three shots, scored career-low four points, grabbed a career-low one rebound and came within two of matching his career high of eight turnovers as Kentucky lost 73-72.

Didn't we think we were past the point of such a disappearance? Wasn't Jones supposed to be bigger, stronger, faster, more mature, more consistent?

"These guys are not machines, guys," answered Calipari. "They're not computers. They have bad games. You move on. Hopefully he plays better from here on. Maybe five games from now he has another bad game. You try to win without him."

Kentucky did try to win without him. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was, in Calipari's words, "a beast" with his 18 points and nine rebounds. Marquis Teague shrugged off a nervous first half for a stellar second. Doron Lamb scored a team-high 19.

But Jones entered the game as UK's leading scorer, averaging 15 points and 7.5 rebounds.

In his 46 previous college outings, his rebounds-plus-points-plus-assists total had never been less than 12 — that coming in the first round of last year's NCAA Tournament against Princeton. Jones scored 10 points that day, but was limited to just two rebounds.

This day, he was limited everywhere. First half, his only basket was a jam off a Teague assist with 8:36 left to put UK up 18-14. He had no rebounds. He turned it over five times. Second half, his only basket came on a steal-and-score with 18 minutes left to put the Cats up 35-34. For the game, he took just three shots.

With 17:16 to go, Jones committed his sixth turnover and found a place on Calipari's bench. He was in and out and then back again with 3:14 left just in time to surrender a basket to a driving Watford that made the score 68-65 Indiana.

"That just shows it wasn't his day," Calipari said. "That's when I said, 'That's it. I'm not even going to try you. We gotta try and win this game. I'll deal with you when we get home.'"

The deal is we all have bad days. Unfortunately for Jones, this was a day in which top-ranked Kentucky was playing its first real road game, before a juiced-up crowd in a rivalry matchup. It was a game in which you want veterans to lead, to perform, to produce.

In fact, it was much like UK's first real road game a year ago, at North Carolina. Jones made just three of 17 shots in Chapel Hill, scored but nine points with six rebounds, and was knocked (mocked?) afterward for taking a morning nap before a noon start.

Terrence Jones was a freshman then. He's a sophomore now.

"I'm not mad at him," Calipari said. "The kid had a bad game. You have bad games."

But for Kentucky to win this big game, it needed a bigger game from Terrence Jones.

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