Teague had 17 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the field and 4-for-5 at the foul line (he's 23-for-28 since his late miss against North Carolina eight games ago). He had four assists, two turnovers (none in the first 30 minutes), three rebounds and one steal in 36 hard minutes against the scrappy Gamecocks. He also played stellar defense and was a big reason South Carolina ace Bruce Ellington was 3-for-3 from the field. "Marquis' defense was not bad. He still did not get enough balls and has to get better. He had a couple of breakdowns," said Calipari. "But I?am trying to get him to play that perfect game." That's the problem. Teague can't. But neither could former UK?point guards John Wall and Brandon Knight. Or former Memphis point guards Tyreke Evans and Derrick Rose. That didn't keep all four from being first-round NBA draft picks and terrific college players.
Teague is not Wall or Knight. He's not Rose or Evans. He's Teague, and he's still very, very good. Just ask South Carolina coach Darrin Horn. "Ultimately,?I think he is a terrific player. He is a guy that can get the ball to where he wants it to go. He has terrific athleticism," Horn said. "He finishes at the rim, and he's going to continue to get better and better."
Check that statement: "going to continue to get better and better."
That's what playing point guard for Calipari is all about, and Teague is getting it. "His game was perfect (today)," freshman center Anthony Davis said. "He's started listening to Cal more and the game is getting easier. He is knocking down jump shots to keep teams honest and driving and scoring in the lane.
"Cal told him the hardest position to play is point guard, and he's trying to listen and do what Cal says. He's got a lot better. He's making great decision. He's really reading stuff well now."
What about it sophomore Terrence Jones? "He led us and made right decisions on when to score and when not to," Jones, who ended his own mini-slump by scoring 20 points on 8-for-9 shooting, said.
Calipari noted he was averaging 4.5 assists to 3.1 turnovers per game and with a couple more passes per game would have had a six assist-three turnover ratio.
"He stops on defense, which is typical of a freshman, but he is playing for the second ranked team which could be undefeated," Calipari said. Calipari wants to know "what are you talking about" if you believe Teague's play has been disappointing.
"He is fine. I expect more out of him, but you shouldn't. I am coaching him," Calipari said. "What he did today he is capable of doing, but he has to play within what we know he can do." What Calipari says he does better than any point guard in the country is get to the rim.
"If there is a better layup shooting point guard in the country I want to see him," the UK coach said. "He's as good as there is in the country. Take a bunch. Don't get them blocked." Calipari loved a drive Teague made to end the first half that finished an 11-0 UK run to put the Cats on top 34-18. He didn't score, but he got the ball to the rim as time was expiring and Davis dunked the follow shot. Calipari waited at midcourt to congratulate Teague, as did Jones. The Gamecocks did not want in a fast paced game with quicker, more athletic Kentucky. They wanted to control pace and one way to do that was by switching defenses and packing a zone defense to stop the inside game.
"This was a hard game to be a point guard. That zone they were running was confusing, and we had to do four or five different things to get the ball where we were trying to get it," Calipari said.
He also said UK's press offense had better spacing mainly due to Teague's patience. "Instead of him trying to beat it, he was letting us try to beat it, and that's the difference," the UK?coach said.
Teague credited Calipari for having him prepared for what he faced.
"We knew they would pressure us in the zone and try to trap, so we were sending people into the middle," Teague said. "We were prepared for their press. Cal told us where to be and when. I wish they had kept pressing because we were scoring a lot."
Teague insists he's not listened to the fan chatter or media speculation about his play. "Cal just told me to play and listen to him," Teague said. "I just did what Cal told me. I just want to play the best I can.?I think I have been playing okay, but I?picked it up today. I think it was my best overall game. I?am still trying to figure out the pace he wants me to play, and it's hard. I think I?am making good decisions, then I?mess up.
"But I don't take it as pressure. I know when I?make a mistake I will hear it from him, but he is just trying to get me better.When he yells now, it doesn't bother me as much. I just take it as tough criticism and learn from it."
He obviously did that Saturday. The more he learns, the better it is for UK, too.
"The way Marquis played today, it's going to be real hard for teams to beat us,"?Jones said. And that's something both Calipari and UK fans can agree on.