LEXINGTON, Ky. – Terrence Jones set a Kentucky freshman single-game scoring record with 35 points as the 13th-ranked Wildcats rolled by Auburn 78-54 on Tuesday night.
Jones broke the previous record of 32 points — set by teammate Doron Lamb against Winthrop last month — behind a series of jumpers and layups as Kentucky (13-3, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) easily avoided its first losing streak under coach John Calipari.
Calipari challenged the Wildcats to be tougher after getting pushed around in a loss to Georgia on Saturday. Kentucky didn't have to do much to flex its muscle against the overmatched Tigers, but wasted little time putting them away. The Wildcats built a 19-point lead before the game was 10 minutes old and cruised from there.
Allen Payne led the Tigers (7-9, 0-2) with 15 points and Kenny Gabriel added 10 but the basketball team couldn't muster the magic the football team used to win the national championship on Monday night.
Jones began the game on the bench for the first time this season. He's been battling cold and flu symptoms for the better part of two months but Calipari has also been critical of his players for feeling a little too content at times and hinted lineup changes might be made after the Wildcats lost to the Bulldogs.
If the coach was trying to send a message to Jones, it worked. Jones made 11 of 17 shots, including four 3-pointers, and grabbed eight rebounds in 30 mostly energetic minutes.
Brandon Knight added 13 points and six assists and Lamb finished with eight points and seven assists.
Calipari improved to 4-0 against Auburn coach Tony Barbee, who played for Calipari at Massachusetts and later served as an assistant under Calipari at both UMass and Memphis.
Barbee called Calipari the most influential man in his life behind his father. While Calipari believes Barbee can turn around Auburn's moribund basketball program, Calipari's team showed just how wide the chasm is between the Tigers and the top teams in the SEC.
The Tigers shot 34 percent, turned it over 15 times and never threatened to give the Wildcats their first loss at Rupp Arena during Calipari's tenure.
Kentucky freshman center Enes Kanter, ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA for accepting improper benefits from a Turkish club team two years ago, appeared to be embracing his new role as an undergraduate assistant. Kanter, wearing a white sweat suit, held a clipboard at times.
For a night at least, Kentucky didn't need him. The Wildcats dominated from the opening tip, needing less than 10 minutes to build a 19-point lead as the Tigers again sputtered.
Auburn managed just six first-half points in a loss to LSU last weekend. The Tigers weren't nearly as inept this time, surpassing the mark on a layup by Josh Langford with 10 minutes to go in the half, but all it did was cut Kentucky's lead to 17 points.
Still, Auburn kept scrapping, getting under Jones' skin at one point. He was fouled while being trapped in the backcourt on one possession and fell to the ground. Before he could get up Payne came perilously close to stepping on him. Jones took exception while he scrambled to his feet and the referees stepped in to separate the players.
Jones exacted a bit of revenge just before the half, grabbing a rebound then dribbling up the court as time wound down. He pulled up and hit a 3-pointer as the horn sounded to give Kentucky a 41-21 lead and remind the Tigers that football season is officially over.
The talented but sometimes erratic Jones was just starting to heat up. He scored 22 points in the second half, tying Lamb's record on a 3-pointer that put Kentucky up 69-47 then breaking it moments later on a free throw.
He walked off the court to a rousing ovation then received a friendly shove from Lamb before taking a seat on the bench.