Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague show encouraging signs



UK’s first conference game provided plenty of good signs.

Two of them were more important than the rest.

Terrence Jones bounced back in a big way, scoring 20 points on 8 of 9 shooting. It was his second-highest scoring output of the season.

“That’s the Terrence we know,” head coach John Calipari said.

More importantly, his confidence was, perhaps, restored after three weeks of battling an injured finger.

“My finger getting hurt, my confidence got shot because I didn’t want to be aggressive because of the pain,” Jones said.

Against South Carolina, Jones said the finger hurt less. The only time he remembered feeling any pain was on a dunk.

But at least he was dunking.

“We were just trying to tell him pick his head up,” Marquis Teague said of dealing with Jones the last few weeks. “His head was down. We’ve all been through it. He’s just more energized now. He’s back to his normal self, dunking on people, screaming.”

Teague himself had a solid game, scoring a season-high 17 points on 6 of 10 shooting with four assists and two turnovers. He showed smart decision-making on when to drive to score, when to drive to create for teammates, when to run the offense.

“He really led us and made the right decisions about when to score and when not to,” Jones said. “When it comes to making decisions, that was one of his best games. With so many great players around him, knowing when to pass and when to score is real tough.”

Teague, too, had gone through a rough few weeks. His play had been criticized — unfairly, Calipari thought.

“Everybody’s saying he’s a disappointment,” Calipari said. “What are you talking about? The kid is doing fine. Now I expect more out of him, but you shouldn’t. I’m coaching him.”

So both players played well. UK needs them to. As Calipari noted, Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist “bring it” every game, meaning it falls on the others to take UK to another level.

To do that, Jones and Teague must continue their improvement. One game is not enough to proclaim that both are where they need to be. Regressions could happen. They need to piece together a couple more similarly good performances.

Calipari will make sure neither gets complacent.

“This isn’t like okay, now I back up and go put my toes up and eat Cheetos,” Calipari said.

If that’s the only criteria, UK should be in good shape.

“Not really,” Jones said when asked if he likes Cheetos, with a laugh.

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