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November 22, 2010
KENTUCKY 76, OKLAHOMA 64
Nov. 22, 2010
Lahaina Civic Center; Lahaina, Maui
LAHAINA, Maui - The book on Terrence Jones during his high school days told the story of a versatile, do-everything athlete with freakish skills for a player his size. In his first moment on a national stage he made the analysts look like prophets.
Jones did a little bit, actually a whole lot, of everything to lead Kentucky to a 76-64 victory over Oklahoma in the first round of the EA Sports Maui Invitational. The freshman forward dazzled the capacity crowd of 2,400 at the Lahaina Civic Center, capping his breakthrough performance by blocking a Cade Davis three-point attempt and getting a runout dunk on the other end to stem the Sooners' final rally.
Jones' 29 points tied Eric Bledsoe for the second most in a game by a UK freshman, falling just a two short of Jamal Mashburn's record. The 6-foot-8 forward added 12 rebounds to push the Cats through a ragged second half.
"I've got to give Oklahoma credit. Jeff mucked up the game a little bit. It was a smart thing to do with an inexperienced team. We got out of kilter. At the start of the game it looked like it was going to be a runaway and then all of the sudden he starts mucking it up and were paralyzed a little bit."
"When we recruited him I thought Terrence Jones was the best player in the country in his class. There were some other guys that got a lot of accolades, but I just didn't see anyone who could have the impact on a game like he could." -- Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel, on Terrence Jones.
FROM THE LOCKER ROOM
"On the blocked shot, usually in practice now we are doing 35 seconds on the shot clock and you're trying to get a stop so I just related it to practice and got the stop," -- Terrence Jones on late block of Oklahoma's Cade Davis.
How could it be anyone other than Terrence Jones? The freshman forward was the best player on the floor for either team, dominating the game with his versatility and innate ability. Jones lifted Kentucky on his back when it was struggling in the second half, scoring 17 points and blocking three shots down the stretch to offset a horrific second half from point guard Brandon Knight. It's only three games but Jones is averaging 22 points, 10 rebounds and 2.7 bocks while flashing rare skills for a player his size.
Credit Oklahoma for never throwing in the towel but this one was in Kentucky's control within the first five minutes as it ran out to a 21-8 lead. The Cats made nine of their first 10 shots from the field, including a trio of three-pointers, that put the Sooners on their heels. When Oklahoma cut the deficit to 68-62 on a Cade Davis three-pointer with 2:10 left, Jones blocked Davis' next attempt and finished it with a breakaway dunk to seal the victory.
DID YOU NOTICE?
No matter how talented a freshman may be every single one of them has moments early in their career where they look completely lost on the basketball court. Brandon Knight had about 20 minutes worth in the second half, looking frustrated, out of sorts and altogether overwhelmed for the first time. The Cats; point guard went 1-of-8 from the floor and had five turnovers in the second half, but even those raw numbers may not accurately reflect how much he struggled to find his traction.
DeAndre Liggins rarely does anything flashy but when he's at his nose to the grindstone best the Cats are a tough draw for any opponent. Liggins was all over the court, diving on loose balls, hounding Oklahoma star Cade Davis on the defensive end (Davis' 23 points were deceiving) and generally being the fly in the ointment the Cats need him to be. Liggins' final line of 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals was as balanced and impressive as you'll see.
50 - John Calipari readily admits he has some sort of ghastly effect on his teams' free throw shooting but it's been bad even by his standards to this point of the season. The Cats made just 11-of-22 from the free throw line, including a 0-of-5 start and two missed front ends of one-and-ones in the final 1:43. The errant effort dropped UK to just 63.3 percent on the season and, worse yet, an inexcusable 44.4 percent in the East Tennessee State and Oklahoma contests.
Kentucky began its tour of three games in the 2010 Maui Invitational by having the best of both worlds. John Calipari's young team was able to grow and learn about itself and what it takes to perform in clutch situations while still being able to survive and advance on the strength of a 76-64 victory over Oklahoma. Terrence Jones' overall game notwithstanding, the best moments were the beginning and end. UK blew out to an easy lead and learned those never hold, while they saw their lead dwindle to just six points down the stretch but fought back to push ahead for the win without being threatened.
Oklahoma isn't a Top 25 team but did give Kentucky its first look at a major conference squad with ample size and athleticism. The Cats played ragged basketball for stretches - especially in the second half - but passed their first significant test thanks in large part to Terrence Jones' brilliance and DeAndre Liggins' relentless defensive pressure. The road will clearly get much tougher but coach John Calipari now at least has a starting point and can teach from this point forward.
Kentucky (3-0) advanced to the second round of the winners' bracket at the EA Sports Maui Invitational and will face the winner of Washington-Virginia at 9:30 p.m. eastern time on Tuesday, Nov. 23.
Matt May is the basketball beat reporter for The Cats' Pause. If you have questions or comments about the Cats e-mail him here. You can also follow "@TCPMAY" on Twitter for live updates.