He proved that Sunday during Kentucky’s 82-70 win over Baylor that sends Jones and UK to a second straight Final Four.
On offense, he was just as important without scoring because he has six assists — one more than his career high. They all came in the first 14 minutes when UK used a dazzling 31-5 run to build a 36-17 lead that all but assured there would be a Kentucky-Louisville rematch Saturday in New Orleans in the national semifinals.
“I was just trying to be aggressive,” said Jones. “Once I went to the hole, Antony (Davis) was so wide open. I was just basically throwing lobs to him. It was a real physical battle and I had to really play hard and aggressive and that led to great rebounding position that I could start the break with.”
In the second half, UK¿needed more offense from Jones and he responded with 11 points. He was 3-for-5 from the field and would have had more points if he had not gone 5-for-10 from the foul line.
Still, he had 12 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three blocks and two steals in 35 minutes to more than offset his two turnovers.
Just call it Redemption Weekend for Jones. He had 12 points, five rebounds,one block and one steal against Indiana Friday to help wipe out memories of his miserable performance in UK’s loss at Indiana.
Now he’s Final Four-bound again and close to achieving his goal of winning a national title, the reason he came back to Kentucky rather than leave for the NBA like teammates Brandon Knight and DeAndre Liggins did after the 2011 Final Four run.
“Well, it feels great (to go back to the Final Four). Just working so hard all year with this group and us just coming together to become a family and just celebrating getting this far is just real good. We just know we've got a lot more to do,” Jones said.
Indeed there is, especially with rival Louisville waiting for Kentucky in New Orleans in what could be the biggest basketball game ever for both teams. Win this game and own the state. Lose this game and it’s unthinkable, or at least it is for Kentucky since the Cats already have one win over Louisville and have been favored to win the title all season. Not winning the national title because of a loss to the Cards would be Big Blue misery.
“We are not going to add that pressure on ourselves,” Jones said. “We are going to stay with our same routine.”
Can the Cats really avoid the Final Four/Louisville hype?
“On this team, yes. We have a bunch of fun loving dudes,” Jones said. “Well be fine.”
Maybe better than fine when Jones is locking down on defense the way he did, distributing the ball, rebounding and starting the fast break.
“He was great,” freshmanMichael Kidd-Gilchrist, who was named the South Region’s most outstanding player, said. “He was doing everything, but we know he can do that. It was no big surprise. Whatever we need, Terrence does it. That’s nothing new.”
Maybe, but the way Jones did it Sunday was a bit different because he was so unselfish and so determined. He had that intense look on his face that he would not be denied.
“I am definitely happy when my teammates score more and all I¿have to do is pass to them,” Jones said. “I just want to win. That’s it. We have that will to win. We have had it all season. We just lock down own people and take pride in what we do. We’re happy we won, but we know there’s more to do. That’s why we can’t make too big a deal out of this.¿It was a great win, but there’s more to do.”
Kentucky players openly admit that anything less than a national championship and they will consider this year where they went unbeaten in Southeastern Conference regular season play, have won 35 games and have been ranked No. 1 most of the season a disappointment. Some might consider that unrealistic. Jones considers it logical.
“This is a great team. We are a family. I love my brothers and we have great players,” Jones said. “Everybody wants to win a national championship. That’s why we are here. We don’t want to settle for anything less than that. So if we don’t win, we’ll be disappointed. How could we not be?”
That’s setting a high bar for a successful season, but that’s part of playing at Kentucky and Jones played like he truly understood every bit of that and that’s why UK is now so close to reaching that lofty expectation.