Indiana stops dynamic UK frontcourt duo of Davis, Jones
Christian Watford and Cody Zeller were up against two consensus NBA lottery picks.
One, Kentucky freshman forward Anthony Davis, is projected as the No. 1 overall draft pick on ESPN.com.
The other, sophomore forward Terrence Jones, was an Associated Press preseason All-American.
IU (9-0) was able to keep the frontcourt duo to a combined 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting and came away with a 73-72 win against No. 1 Kentucky (8-1) Dec. 10, at Assembly Hall.
“Job number one, outside of getting back on defense, was how we played Davis and Jones,” IU Coach Tom Crean said. “We had to be physical.”
Jones was kept to career lows in points (4), field goal attempts (3) and rebounds (1).
Jones had six turnovers, more than his point and rebound total combined.
Though Watford will likely be remembered more for his game-winning buzzer-beater, he was the one keeping back Jones all night.
Watford said he had a game plan to shut down Kentucky’s leading scorer.
“I just wanted to limit his touches more than anything,” Watford said. “I wanted to make it tough for him and not let him get to his spots.”
Watford’s containment of Jones forced Kentucky to look for other options, Kentucky Coach John Calipari said.
“We did it without Terrence Jones,” Calipari said. “He absolutely gave us zero today.”
While Jones was limited on the floor, Davis was limited because he was off the floor. The freshman forward found himself in foul trouble for most of the game. Instead of shying away from the highly touted freshman, Zeller said the plan was to go
“We wanted to attack him,” Zeller said. “He’s a great player and a great shot blocker. On both ends, he’s a great player and a difference maker. We wanted to take it at him and get him in foul trouble.”
When Davis picked up his third foul and was forced to the bench with 17:35 to go in the second half, IU went on a 10-0 run to take a 10-point lead.
“He’s definitely a difference maker on the defensive end,” Zeller said about Davis. “He’s got great length, and he’s a great shot blocker. I think our sets were just working better without him in there.”
Though Davis never fouled out, he was held to just two second-half points. Jones also tallied two points and played only 11 minutes in the second half.
Zeller said IU knew coming in what to expect out of the Kentucky duo.
“We all knew that we had to bring our best game, me as well as Christian and some of the other guys,” Zeller said. “We had all played against a lot of them before, so it wasn’t too much of a shock, I don’t think.”
By game’s end, the Hoosiers ended up tied in the rebounding battle. The effort on the glass was one Crean said changed the game.
“To tie Kentucky in the rebounding and to have 14 offensive boards, that’s a victory in itself with what they’re doing on the backboards and especially the way they’ve handled us the last couple years,” Crean said.
Unlike the last two years, IU walked away from Kentucky with a win.
They keep back two players who figure to be lottery picks if they choose to enter the upcoming NBA Draft.
For Zeller, it was a game that was won on the glass.
“They crashed the boards hard, and we struggled with that a little bit early in the season,” Zeller said. “We knew that we had to do that to win, and it just showed.”
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