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NEW ORLEANS â€” They are not valued for their senior leadership like Darius Miller. They are not one-and-done players like Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist â€” and possibly even Marquis Teague.
Yet CBS-TV college basketball analyst Clark Kellogg says it would be a mistake to undervalue the impact sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb have had for No. 1 Kentucky going into Saturdayâ€™s national semifinal game with Louisville.
â€œThey are not the team they are that is favored to win this if they donâ€™t have those two guys,â€ said Kellogg. â€œThatâ€™s how much they mean to them because it adds to their explosiveness. You have a guy in Lamb who is a premier shooter and a big-time talent in Terrence Jones. Blocks shots, rebounds, runs the floor. Hasnâ€™t shot it out away from the basket as much this year, and thatâ€™s probably a good thing, but he has the ability to make 3â€™s when he has his feet and shoulders squared. Those guys, and the fact that they have already been to one Final Four, are really, really valuable to Kentucky.â€
Jones is averaging 12.6 points per game â€” down from 15.7 last year â€” and 7.2 rebounds â€” down from 8.8 last year. He has 64 blocked shots and 46 steals. Heâ€™s hitting 50.1 percent from the field â€” up from 44.2 last year when he took about three more shots per game. He has scored 1,049 career points.
Lamb is scoring 13.6 points per game â€” up from 12.3 last year. Heâ€™s shooting 47.1 percent from 3-point range â€” down slightly from 48.1 last season. However, heâ€™s gone to the foul line 40 more times this season and is shooting 82.9 percent at the foul line.
â€œItâ€™s hard sometimes when you have such an explosive and talented team for everybody to get the media attention because the public and writers gravitate to certain guys,â€â€ˆKellogg said. â€œThatâ€™s just the nature of the beast.
â€œA good team with really good players that these guys are just has to accept that as part of the territory and know that ultimately team success is what matters most in terms of how they are all remembered. It is what it is from my standpoint in that regard, but those guys are good. They are pro caliber players, so that says it all.â€
Kellogg says its unfair to measure Jonesâ€™ season by his statistics because of what Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist have added to the team to change his role.
â€œYou have to look at the context of the team and what is he being asked to do, where has he added to his game, where has he improved to judge his year,â€ Kellogg said. â€œWithin that context, I think Jones has done a pretty good job. Most of us, and Iâ€ˆam included, thought he was player of the year type talent but within this team that is not required of him. Thatâ€™s not mandated. He doesnâ€™t have to get 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds).
â€œHe just has to be solid and when he has opportunities he has to take advantage of them, but with this team nobody is going to have huge numbers. They are all averaging double digits. Any one of those guys could have 20 a game. Any of them. But it is not in the best interests of their team. They share the ball and are hard to guard because any of those guys can go for 20 or 30 points at any times.
â€œBut Terrence,â€ˆI just think he is extremely versatile. He can face you, drive it, block shots, has got good size.â€ˆI just think he is a really, really talented player and probably even better than most Kentucky fans appreciate this year.â€
With Lamb, Kellogg likes his shooting accuracy and poise on the court.
â€œIâ€ˆthink he is capable playing with the ball as a point guard, too.â€ˆHe has gotten better. He has improved his ball skills, but I love his shooting. He makes shots over people. He can make open shots, but he can make the ones that are tough, too,â€ Kellogg said.