Terrence Jones getting back into form
If his latest effort is any indication, it's safe to say preseason All-American Terrence Jones is rounding back into form.
That doesn't bode well for Auburn, which knows all too well of Jones' tremendous ability.
Seeking a season best-tying eighth consecutive victory, No. 2 Kentucky looks to extend its winning streak versus the Tigers to 13 as the teams meet Wednesday night at Auburn Arena.
Aside from a last-second 73-72 loss at Indiana on Dec. 10 in which the sophomore had four points and six turnovers in 28 minutes, the Wildcats (15-1, 1-0 SEC) cruised through their non-conference schedule. Kentucky picked up right where it left off in Saturday's SEC opener, beating South Carolina 79-64 behind a game-high 20 points from Jones.
"We will be an excellent team if he keeps playing like that. He is a weapon on the floor," freshman standout Anthony Davis said.
Jones, who missed two games after dislocating his left pinky on his shooting hand versus Chattanooga on Dec. 17, totaled just 21 points over his next three before finally picking up the pace over the weekend. The formidable forward had scored at least 14 points in six of his first nine games before getting hurt.
"That's the Terrence Jones we know," coach John Calipari . "I told him after the game, `Now you work even harder than you've been working.'"
Jones and the Wildcats now look for their momentum to carry over versus the Tigers (10-5, 0-1), whom they've outscored by an average of 12.5 points during their 12-game run in the series. Kentucky has taken 26 of 27 meetings with Auburn - including a 78-54 victory last Jan. 11 in which Jones scored a career-high 35 points.
The Tigers, though, have held their own versus the Wildcats at home of late, losing the last two by a combined eight points.
Auburn has outscored opponents by 14.4 points per game in opening 9-0 at home and is surely looking forward to getting back there after suffering a pair of ugly road losses.
Three days after falling 85-56 at Florida State, the Tigers were blown out in their first taste of conference play, 65-35 at Vanderbilt on Saturday.
"I am doing an awful job with this team because I have to get them to understand that no matter if they are the most talented team in the country or the worst, the only thing that matters is how tough they play mentally and physically," coach Tony Barbee said. "This team is as soft as I have worked with, both collectively and individually."
"Our team needs to realize if you aren't the more talented team and you are soft as a team, you are going to get beat by 30."
The Tigers, who shot just 30.0 percent from the field in those two losses, will surely need to be more efficient to keep up with Kentucky. The Wildcats are shooting an SEC-best 49.1 percent and rank second in the conference with 80.9 points per game.
In addition to trying to slow down Jones, Auburn could have its hands full with Davis. The 6-foot-10 forward posted his fifth consecutive double-double Saturday with 12 points and 10 rebounds to go along with seven blocks. He's swatted away a Division-I leading 74 shots.
"I've never seen a kid do what he can do," South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said. "He gets a double-double every night because of his athleticism."
The Tigers, who have yet to face a ranked opponent this season, have dropped 10 of 11 versus Top 25 foes - including five straight by 16.4 points per contest.
Auburn hasn't won its first 10 home games since opening 17-0 as host in 1999-2000.