Twenty questions, asked and answered, concerning Kentucky’s 78-54 win over Auburn.
1. So why did Terrence Jones come off the bench for the first time this season?
John Calipari said that Jones missed Monday’s practice because of a chest cold, so the way Cal does things, that meant TJ would come off the bench. “But I kind of liked him off the bench,” said the coach. What was not to like? Jones scored a freshman record 35 points.
2. So what was not to like?
Calipari wasn’t crazy about Jones shooting those three-pointers. The freshman made four-of-five, but Cal said Jones jacking up triples isn’t going to be why UK wins. Jones around the basket, scoring and grabbing rebounds is why Kentucky will win games.
3. Crazy Terrence Jones stat?
The Portland native was nine-of-13 from the foul line. Kentucky, as a team, was nine-of-17 from the foul line. DeAndre Liggins missed both his free throws. Eloy Vargas missed both his free throws.
4. How bad was Auburn?
Charles Barkley might say his alma mater is “turrible.” And he’d be right. Tony Barbee’s club just can’t shoot. But Auburn does fight. Second half it was Kentucky 37, Auburn 33. And the Tigers came within one rebound of matching UK, 39-38.
5. Does Auburn have any hope this year?
Probably not, but Allen Payne showed some signs. The 6-foot-6 freshman from Cincinnati led the Tigers with 15 points.
6. Enough about Auburn, how did Doron Lamb play as a starter?
The freshman scored just eight points, but did have seven assists. Cal said he still thinks that Lamb could play with a better motor. He said he had the same problem with Chris Douglas-Roberts on that great Memphis team.
7. Which UK player took a step forward?
Has to be Terrence. He was very active, especially in the second half. “Rebounded better,” said Calipari. “Just went after balls. He went after balls with two hands above the rim.”
8. Which UK player took a step back?
Josh Harrellson scored just eight points, grabbed just four rebounds. That broke a string of three straight games of double-digit rebounds for Josh. “He reverted,” said Calipari.
9. How was Cal’s post-game mood?
You be the judge: “There were things I was angry about today again. We’ve got to get better. The way we’re playing, at spurts we’re really good, and at other times we’re not beating one of the better teams in our league. We won’t beat the best teams in our league, we just won’t.”
10. Best cheer of the night from the crowd?
It came when Eloy Vargas hustled and grabbed a rebound away from the rim. The crowd went nuts. Cal went nuts. “That’s our crowd trying to help coach this kid,” said Calipari. “That’s our crowd knowing, Eloy, you got to get balls.”
11. Spooky stat of the night?
As @CoachRubenV tweeted: “Kentucky moves to 1-1. Auburns leading scorer gets 1 point on 1-11-11. . in the stars?” Earnest Ross, the only Tiger averaging double figures at 13 points per game, went oh-of-eight from the floor and scored one point.
12. A stat you might not believe?
Auburn had 17 second-chance points. Kentucky had nine.
13. Any other oddities?
Kentucky opened its locker room for the post-game interviews for the first time this season. Usually, three or four players are selected to come into the media room for interviews. But at NCAA Tournament time, teams are required to open their locker rooms. To get its players used to the idea, the Cats started that practice tonight. How did it go? Couldn’t tell you. Because of a tight deadline, I was busy writing. But I like the idea.
14. How did Darius Miller play?
The junior got off to a great start, hitting a pair of threes in the first four minutes. He ended up with 10 points, six rebounds and Cal calling for more. “Where is that lion, tiger? Where is it? Come out. He’s too nice a kid. Well, career’s over. When we’re done here, you’re done. . . . He’s a great kid. Like I said, I see him as being All-Conference. There are times he is. There are times he reverts. We’ve got to get him steadier.”
15. Anybody hitting the mid-season wall?
You have to wonder about Brandon Knight. He played 40 minutes at Georgia, 39 minutes tonight. He scored 13 points and had six assists, but made just five of 13 shots. And he’s not getting to the foul line. He has just one free throw attempt in his last two games.
16. Any good Auburn quotes?
Barbee on Terrence Jones: “He’s a grown man. He’s a grown man at a very young age.”
17. What else impressed Barbee about the team coached by his good friend, Calipari?
“Their speed. Their speed 1-to-5 is tremendous. They get the ball off the glass and they get it up the court as quick as any team I’ve seen.”
18. Was there any talk at the basketball game about the football bowl loss?
Joker Phillips talked about. The UK football coach was made available to the media an hour before the basketball game. He said that despite the 6-7 record and the loss in the BBVA Compass Bowl, he felt good about the future. Whether this was in response to UK losing a top commitment to Notre Dame on Monday, who knows?
19. What’s up next for the basketball Cats?
LSU on Saturday, 6 p.m. 4 p.m. at Rupp. Those Tigers are better than these Tigers, but not by much.
20. Kentucky’s reward for winning?
With UK’s classes starting Wednesday, Calipari said he was giving the team Wednesday off.