LEXINGTON — Kentucky showed it can win without Terrence Jones.
Jones, a preseason all-american selection, played just 10 minutes and was didn’t score a point for the first time in his career in the Wildcats’ 87-62 win over Chattanooga Saturday night at Rupp¿Arena.
Jones had plenty to prove after scoring four points and sitting out the last few minutes of Kentucky’s 73-72 loss at Indiana, but his lack of scoring and minutes against the Mocs wasn’t his fault. It was rather a dislocated finger that prevented Jones from scoring and proving a point in the first of five straight home games that ends with a New Year’s Eve get-together with instate rival Louisville.
Jones injured his finger early in the first half and tried to come back to the court not once, but four times. He played eight minutes in the first half and logged just two during the final 20 minutes.
Kentucky coach John Calipari “couldn’t tell” if the injury had an effect on his inability to score, but praised Jones for trying to overlook the injury and return to the floor.
“He tried to play,” the Kentucky coach said. “I’ve got to give him credit. He tried to go back in and fight.”
Jones’ sidekick in the post — freshman Anthony Davis — knows Jones was prepared to erase memories of his performance against the Hoosiers by showing his determination in practice last week.
“Terrence worked really hard in practice to prepare for this game and to prove people wrong,” he said. “He had a problem with his finger, so that kind of slowed him down. It kept hurting and bothering him the whole game.”
Although Kentucky picked up its ninth win of the season without Jones, it doesn’t mean the team can survive the rest of the season without him. Jones is one of the players that Calipari is relying on to help Kentucky return to the Final Four and compete for the school’s eighth-national championship. Kentucky needs Jones as much as Jones needs Kentucky. They need each other to succeed.
“He’s one of those guys we’re counting on,” Calipari said. “I think he’ll be fine. We’ll see.”
It’s too soon to know if Jones will return to the court this week and even Calipari isn’t sure if he will play against Samford Tuesday night.
“Will he be able to play Tuesday (against Samford)?” Calipari said. “I don’t know, I really don’t know.”
When he does return, Jones will need to step it up a notch in the scoring column. Jones netted single digits just six times in 28 games last year, but has failed to score in double figures in four of the team’s first 10 games.
Although Jones appears to be in a sophomore slump, Kentucky freshman Michael-Kidd Gilchrist believes Jones will return at full force when he recovers from the injury.
“He is going to be fine,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “He is our leader on the court. He is going to be fine.”