Jones hasn’t lived up to those expectations for most of the season, but on Saturday versus LSU Jones again showed his potential to be a dominant presence for the Wildcats. He posted a season-high 27 points to go with nine rebounds versus the Tigers.
“Terrence has to give us that physical presence,” said UK head coach John Calipari. “If he gives us that physical presence the other guys can do what they do.”
“(It felt) real good, just because it was within the offense, and it just came naturally because of how hard I was running the floor,” Jones said.
Jones did not just impress on the offensive end of the floor, Calipari said.
“He was tough,” Calipari said. “He came up with balls. He posted physically strong. Even though the guy battled him, he battled back.
“That’s now what we’re all looking for, and everybody will be saying if he’s capable of doing that then lets see it every game. It’s hard because they’re not machines and not computers, but you strive for it.”
Jones said his contributions are only part of the key to UK reaching its potential.
“I think every player that plays a large amount of minutes is important and can step up in different games,” he said. “I think last year that was a big key to how far we went: how a different player made a big impact in each game in the tournament.”
The improved play of Jones and the rest of the Wildcats will be put to the test Tuesday when UK faces Tennessee for the second time this season.
“In this game, it’s going to be a body to body deal and it’s going to wear people out,” he said.
UK had trouble adapting to Tennessee’s physicality early in their first matchup. Five different Wildcats — Jones, freshman forward Anthony Davis senior guard Darius Miller, freshman point guard Marquis Teague and sophomore guard Doron Lamb — had two fouls in the first half versus the Volunteers.
“We’re playing not to foul,” Calipari said. “We want six fouls at half. We don’t want it to be a roughhouse, win-in-the-weight-room game. That’s not how we play.”
In the teams’ first meeting, Tennessee freshman forward Jarnell Stokes made his collegiate debut, scoring nine points on 4-5 shooting in 17 minutes. In Tennessee’s four games since losing to UK, Stokes is averaging 11 points and nine rebounds per game.
“Stokes is getting more comfortable, but they’re all better,” Calipari said of Tennessee.
Asked if UK would be better prepared for Stokes in the second meeting, Jones discounted the role the freshman played in their last matchup.
“I don’t think he really made that big of an impact,” Jones said. “Whatever he had wasn’t that big to me. But it should be fun just playing Tennessee.”
While UK is coming off what Calipari called one of the team’s best games of the season, he said the Wildcats still have room for improvement.
“We played as well as we’ve played all year,” he said. “But now lets see how we do today in practice. Lets see how we do tomorrow. Lets see how we build on that.
“We’re trying to get better. If Tennessee is better than us tomorrow, we’ll move on to the next game.”