Kentucky values Teague for playmaking, not points
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP)
Marquis Teague's scoring average keeps dropping. It's just what top-ranked Kentucky has needed from its freshman point guard.
Teague has been passing up shots and cutting his turnovers, transitioning from scoring leader to distributor to the delight of coach John Calipari.
''The guy that has the ball, if he's playing well, you've got a chance. If he's not playing well, you have no chance. Now, he can play well and you still lose because everybody else is playing bad, but they can all play well and if he's playing poorly and you can't win,'' Calipari said. ''He is really listening. He's playing the way we need him to play.''
And Kentucky (22-1, 8-0 Southeastern Conference) has another bona fide star at the point following the likes of John Wall and Brandon Knight. Calipari also had success developing Tyreke Evans and Derrick Rose at Memphis.
Teague, the younger brother of Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague, has increased his value while producing fewer points.
''It's kind of like having a quarterback and that guy has to get us all in tune, and he is,'' Calipari said. ''He's doing really well.''
Teague had averaged 10.9 points over the Wildcats' first 17 games while averaging 4.4 assists and more than three turnovers per game. In the last six, Teague has reached double digits only once, but he's committing one less turnover a game while Kentucky won all six by an average of 15.6 points.
''It makes it a lot easier when you all like each other. I think we've got a great team where we pass the ball to each other,'' Teague said. ''We've got guys that are like superstars on this team, everybody's unselfish, plays together and plays hard. It makes it a lot easier.''
Kentucky's next test is a trip Saturday to South Carolina (9-11, 1-5), where the Gamecocks knocked off Calipari's first No. 1 team with the Wildcats in 2009.
Calipari stuck up for Teague earlier this season when he was criticized following 18 turnovers over a four-game stretch. He's improved even as fellow freshman Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the rest of the Wildcats draw most of the headlines.
''A guy like Marquis Teague, who scored 28 a game in high school, is running our team, not scoring as many points. A Michael Gilchrist who scored 25 a game. We're not running one play for Michael Gilchrist,'' Calipari said. ''Whether it's Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones or Darius Miller ... they're accepting that these freshmen are really good. Yet they're still stepping up and playing. So there's a good thing going because they want to win. They like each other. They really do like each other.''
Teague said repeatedly he knew what he signed up for when he came to Kentucky, and he's beginning to thrive in the system. He also has plans come April when the Wildcats may be featured in the only game of the month - the national championship.
''I'm just trying to stay within the offense, get everybody good shots and do what coach asks me to do,'' Teague said. ''We just want to continue to get better every day. (We) just want to get better and ready for April.''