Senior wins first half, frosh wins game
Ben Hansbrough quiet after halftime as Terrence Jones and UK pull away from Irish
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Wednesday was a big day for guys who changed their mind.
Urban Meyer completed a one-year cycle from retired to unretired to retired. And Terrence Jones showed why Washington will forever regret coming out on the jilted end of his spring commitment, decommitment and subsequent signing with Kentucky.
Jones dropped 27 all-court points and 17 ferocious rebounds on Notre Dame in a 72-58 victory in the SEC/Big East Invitational doubleheader at Freedom Hall. Along the way he showed what matters most in modern college basketball:
Talent beats experience.
Experience wore No. 23 for Notre Dame. That was guard Ben Hansbrough, a fifth-year senior who will be 23 years old in two weeks. Hansbrough is the leading scorer on a team full of relatively ancient players (the Fighting Irish have five seniors and a fourth-year junior).
And in the first half, Psycho B went absolutely ham in the Hall.
Hansbrough lit up Kentucky for 19 points in the first half, hitting five 3-pointers in a span of 7 minutes, 20 seconds. After several of them, the excitable younger brother of former North Carolina hero Tyler Hansbrough posed like a hood ornament. He strutted. He preened. He all but begged the blue-intensive crowd of 17,404 to boo him like he was Christian Laettner.
The crowd obliged.
"He's just feeling it," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said of Hansbrough's shooting -- and gesticulating. "When he took one from the sticker [the logo that covered midcourt and extended to roughly 28 feet from the basket], it was time to calm him down a bit."
Said Kentucky coach John Calipari: "He was incredible. He took one from almost halfcourt and I thought it was in. And so did he."
With Hansbrough going off, experience took a 38-27 lead on talent.
Then talent got down to business. Especially defensively.
By halftime, the score was tied at 40. And by game's end, Hansbrough had stopped hitting shots and stopped showing off.
The Wildcats locked him up, face-guarding him everywhere in the halfcourt. He got off just five difficult shots in the second half and missed them all. He finished with 21 points, after looking for a while like he might score 41.
With their offensive hub shut down, the rest of the Irish were useless for an extended period of time against Kentucky's length, athleticism and defensive tenacity. While Hansbrough was swallowed whole, Jones was playing like a guy capable of making a serious run for freshman of the year honors.
There isn't much the 18-year-old from Portland, Ore., can't do -- he can drive, he can post up, he can make timely perimeter shots, he can pass, he can block shots and he can rebound like his scholarship depends on it. He did all those things multiple times against the Irish.
Jones had the play that stopped Notre Dame's first-half momentum and jump-started the Cats. Down 38-27, he caught the ball on the right block (his favorite spot), spun determinedly into the paint, rose off two feet and crushed home a dunk with three Irish players around him.
Looking at the squadron of NBA scouts at courtside, you could almost hear their pulses pound. Forget the birth certificate -- that was a man's move.
But Jones was even better in the second half. Notre Dame barely outscored him over the final 20 minutes, 18-15.
"He's an amazing talent," Brey said. "You try zone, you try doubling -- he passes, he makes jump shots. & He really lets the game come to him. He has a nice poise about him for a young guy."
With the Irish somehow still hanging around after an extended stretch of ghastly offense, down 57-53, Jones took over the game's final five minutes.
A kid who at that point had made just one of his last eight 3-pointers coolly banged in a corner 3 late in the shot clock. That made it 60-53. The next possession he did what freshmen do, jacking up another corner 3 that bricked off the side of the backboard early in the shot clock.
"Don't torture us and take that 3," Calipari told Jones after the game. "Just do that other stuff."
He got back to the other stuff quickly, grabbing a rebound and scoring on a short jumper off a smooth drive. Then he made another 3 late in the shot clock and four more free throws in the final 75 seconds.
Final tally: Jones scored 12 of UK's final 15 points.
He came in averaging 19 points and 9.6 rebounds, but also was coming off his worst game at Kentucky -- a nine-point, six-rebound foul out at North Carolina in which he missed 14 of 17 shots.
"Coming in, that's all I was thinking about," Jones said. "Supporting my team and trying to do every little thing to make up for a loss."
He did every little thing. And every big thing.
This Kentucky team is not as good as last season's. Not as deep, not as big, not as outrageously talented. There are not five 2011 first-round NBA draft picks on this roster.
But they do have at least one lottery pick, and his name is Terrence Jones. And as much fun as it was to watch old man Hansbrough light up Freedom Hall in the first half, the young guy who famously changed his mind in May won the night.
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.
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