Awake Jones lifts UK vs. Irish
Posted: Friday, December 10, 2010 6:34 am
By: By WILL GRAVES, AP Sports Writer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Terrence Jones scored 27 points and No. 17 Kentucky avoided its first losing streak under coach John Calipari with a 72-58 victory over No. 23 Notre Dame on Wednesday night in the SEC/Big East Invitational.
Jones had been chastised by Calipari for taking a pregame nap before a loss to North Carolina on Saturday, a game in which Jones scored just nine points on 3-of-17 shooting.
The freshman forward had no such problems against the Irish. He made 9-of-18 shots — including a huge 3-pointer with just over two minutes left — grabbed 17 rebounds and added some late free throws as Kentucky (6-2) handed Notre Dame (8-1) its first loss of the season.
Ben Hansbrough led the Fighting Irish with 21 points but scored just two in the second half as Kentucky’s defense clamped down. Notre Dame went without a field goal for over 12 minutes spanning the first and second half, allowing Kentucky to turn an 11-point deficit into a seven-point lead it would never give up.
Kentucky’s lack of interior depth had been exploited while losing to the Tar Heels, as Jones, Josh Harrellson and Eloy Vargas all struggled with foul trouble.
The trio managed to stay on the court against the Irish, helping the Wildcats control the glass. Kentucky outrebounded Notre Dame 42-34 and held the Irish to just 20 percent shooting in the second half.
Brandon Knight added 20 points and five assists for Kentucky, which made 17 of 22 free throws (77 percent), well above its season average of 64 percent.
Notre Dame, which rode the hot hand of Hansbrough to the lead, struggled when the game grew more physical in the second half. Even when the whistle blew, the Irish couldn’t find their stroke. Notre Dame missed 5 of 6 free throws over the final 3:48 and had no answer for Jones.
He clapped his hands together after hitting a little runner in the lane to put the Wildcats up 62-55, then held his left hand aloft after making a 3-pointer from the corner on Kentucky’s next possession to push the lead to 65-57. Notre Dame’s Tyrone Nash missed two free throws while Jones made two at the other end to increase the lead to 67-57 with 1:14 to go.
The venue was technically a neutral site, but it hardly seemed like it, and it wasn’t just the highly partisan Kentucky crowd that made the short hour drive from Lexington for the game.
The Kentucky State Fair Board purchased a University of Kentucky court in hopes of getting the Wildcats to play at Freedom Hall more than once a year. The baselines and sidelines were a familiar shade of blue, though the massive ’UK’ logo at center court was covered up by a larger one promoting the event. It was an odd look for an arena that served as the home of rival Louisville for 54 years before the Cardinals moved to the new KFC Yum! Center this fall.
The raucous atmosphere didn’t affect the senior-laden Irish, at least not early.
Hansbrough ripped off 11 straight points — knocking down three consecutive 3-pointers — as the Irish eventually built an 11-point lead. The younger brother of former North Carolina star Tyler Hansbrough seemed to thrive in the environment, he stuck his hands behind his back after drilling a particularly deep 3-pointer and stared into the crowd while getting back on defense after nailing another.
The Wildcats, however, responded behind the play of Jones. He gave Kentucky a much-needed jolt with a stepthrough two-handed dunk that sparked a late 13-2 run as Kentucky tied it at 40 at halftime.