January 7, 2012

Teague's steady play moves forward in win

Four assists. Three turnovers.

Freshman point guard Marquis Teague's stat line this season hasn't made anyone's jaw drop. He won't break any school records like John Wall did, and he's not the jump shooter Brandon Knight was.

But you probably look at his performance this season far differently than John Calipari does.

"You guys, here he is, he's a freshman," the Kentucky head coach said. "He's played in 16 college games, and because he wasn't playing perfectly - he had 4.5 assists and three turnovers - that ain't bad. If he passed it a couple more times, he'd be averaging six assists and three turnovers, which is perfect."

At his current pace, Teague would finish the season with around 180 assists. That would put him in the top ten in single-season performances in school history, ahead of players like Knight and Rajon Rondo.

It's become a tired refrain for Teague so far this season: listen to Calipari,and play how he wants you to play. Don't worry about scoring, and don't worry about what anyone else thinks.

He finished Saturday's 79-64 win over South Carolina with 17 points on 6-10 shooting to go along with four assists and two turnovers.

"He's playing in Kentucky for the second-ranked team in the country that probably could easily be undefeated and everybody is saying he's a disappointment," Calipari said. "What are you talking about? The kid is doing fine.

"Now, I expect more out of him, but you shouldn't. I'm coaching him. He is doing fine."

It's a message that's slowly been getting across to Teague, who said it was his best game of the season. He's had plenty of games recently where he was loathe to return to the bench after a turnover or a bad play. He knew Calipari was waiting for him.

Saturday was a welcome respite from that.

"It felt good," Teague said. "When he yells at me, it doesn't really bother me as much anymore. I just take it as tough criticism."

Teague's big day led to plenty of easy baskets all around.

"He ran the floor and really let us start getting easy buckets by breaking the press and making sure everybody was in their spots before we started the offense," sophomore forward Terrence Jones said. "I think that's a real big key."

Jones had 20 points and made his first eight shots before missing a meaningless 3-pointer in the game's closing minutes. The Wildcats shot 59.2 percent for the game, their second-best percentage this season.

Teague did it all in the team's Southeastern Conference opener against a team that used multiple defensive looks and pressed often. He made free throws, was solid on defense and made his only 3-point attempt.

"This was a hard game to be a point guard," Calipari said. "Marquis Teague played well."

It's always hard to be a point guard for John Calipari. Teague has been finding that out, along with the same refrain, over and over.

"I was just trying to do whatever (Calipari) told me to do," Teague said.

Four assists. Three turnovers. Things are becoming familiar for Teague.

"I just told him, 'You have to continue to listen,'" Calipari said. "'Play how I'm trying to get you to play. You're going to score without trying to score."

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