NEWARK, N.J. — He’s no DeMarcus Cousins, but Kentucky freshman Terrence Jones certainly has had a Cousins-like impact for the Wildcats this season.
Last year Cousins averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds per game with 20 double-doubles before leading UK as the fifth overall pick in the NBA draft. This season Jones is averaging 16.1 points and 8.7 rebounds with 12 double-doubles going into tonight’s NCAA Tournament game here with Ohio State.
He scored a UK freshman record 35 points against Auburn, had has eight games with 20 or more points (fourth on the UK freshman list) and needs 35 points to become only the third UK freshman to reach 600 points.
Here are some thoughts Jones, who confirmed he’s completely over the cold that bothered him last weekend in Tampa, shared here Thursday as UK prepares to play the No. 1 Buckeyes in what could turn out to be his final collegiate game if the Cats lose and he enters the NBA draft like Cousins did last year:
Question: Can UK really do anything different in this game against Ohio State?
Jones: “That is a coaching decision to decide what pace to play at. As long as we execute our plays and defend, which is the main thing, we should be okay. I think it is mainly the second half that determines the game when two good teams are playing.”
Question: Does it help knowing that UK likely will have a large number of fans in the Prudential Center for the Ohio State matchup?
Jones: “It is a plus to have the confidence of the crowd behind you no matter what city you are in. It just gives us an extra advantge in energy.”
Question: How good do you think Ohio State is?
Jones: “They are the No. 1 team in the country, so they are real good. But it’s not like they are undefeated. It is possible for them to lose. We just have to focus and do everything it takes to win. Right now, they had a better season than us and they are playing better, but nothing matters but this one game. No matter what they have done in the past or we have done, this one game is all that counts. I know we have to defend the 3-point line and the post. We have to execute on defense and not let them have open shots. And we just have to fight.”
Question: How is your team’s confidence level?
Jones: “I would say it is real good right now. We are fighting through everything that has been thrown at us to win.”
Question: Is John Calipari different or the same now as when he recruited you?
Jones: “Same person. He was always about business and he always told me he wasn’t going to give any of the freshman nothing and that we would have to come in and prove it. He plays everybody fair and gives everybody a fair opportunity, even Jarrod Polson. He gave him an opportunity. He is just a coach who is real passionate. He really gets into what he is saying. If you just take it as he wants you to be the best you can be — and it is obvious that is what he wants for each of his players — you will love playing for him.”
Question: Has the media been fair to you to this season, or has too much been expected?
Jones: “Once you play for so long and have been ranked high in high school, you get used to pretty much the media and getting asked questions and all the hype. After a while you just kind of quitting paying attention to it. You just worry about what is happening in life and playing basketball and don’t pay attention to anything else.”
Question: How have you changed since you got here?
Jones: “I have changed a lot. Just being in college brings a lot more responsibility than high school. Playing for the coach I play for, you have to be very mature. You can’t pout or he will let you know. It makes you better as a person being more mature and taking in everything the coaches are saying.”