HOUSTON - As the Kentucky basketball team has soared to Final Four heights, the Wildcats have won while getting less scoring from freshman Terrence Jones, who said he's happy to do whatever it takes for Big Blue to succeed.
Jones, the 6-foot-8 freshman forward, has seen his scoring average steadily decline from 20 points a game on Dec. 8, to 17.6 on Feb. 23 to 15. 8 right now.
Jones, who set the UK freshman single-game scoring record with 35 points against Auburn in January, has only 10 games with 10 or fewer points this season, but six of them have come in the past 11 games. The Cats are 10-1 during that stretch.
"Really I care just about winning more than I do scoring a lot of points and not having a lot of people involved and not having people have the confidence to help us win," Jones said on Friday, a day before the Cats face Connecticut in a national semifinal at Reliant Stadium.
That will be a rematch of the November title game of the Maui Invitiational, in which UConn beat UK 84-67. Jones had 24 points in that game and was garnering early-season attention for a National Player of the Year Candidacy after his his high-scoring start to the season.
But UK coach John Calipari said the Cats are a stronger team now that Jones has accepted a role of scoring less but doing more, concentrating on all other aspects of the game.
"Terrence Jones in Maui took 44 shots in three games, and that's all he talked about was him," Calipari said. "He's taken (32) shots in (the past) four games, taken a little bit of a back seat, so we can step forward. He's still rebounding and defending, but he's just not the centerpiece of the offense."
Jones has averaged only 8.5 shots in the past six games, nearly four fewer per game than his season average.
"My best game is just when I'm doing the most to help my team win, whatever that is, whether it's having the most rebounds, the most steals and blocks, or the most points," Jones said. "Whatever it is that I did to help my team win."
Calipari said Jones is a combination of a small forward and a power forward for UK and has developed a willingness to play in the post or on the perimeter.
"What he's accepting is, 'Tell me what you need me to do this game,'" the coach said. "And I'll tell you there have been games where he's absolutely dominated around the basket, rebounding the ball, blocking shots, running the floor.'
Calipari said Jones' passing is what impressed him most when he evaluated him as a high school player in Portland, Ore., and that Jones is now showing a willingness to pass more than he has all season.
"He is a great - not good - a great passer," Calipari said. "... I asked him 'Where the heck did that go? You used to pass the ball all the time.' And he's passed in the NCAA Tournament. He's taking less shots and giving his teammates more shots and more opportunities."
Jones said he knows he has a talent for finding open teammates and "hitting them in the numbers" either when he's in the post or playing in the middle of the lane against a zone defense.
"We have a lot of great spot-up shooters who if they get two seconds to spot up and shoot it, it's going in," he said. "I believe that about everybody who plays on the wing, Doron (Lamb), Darius (Miller), Brandon (Knight) and DeAndre (Liggins). My main thing is to put them in the best situation to shoot it."