LAHAINA, Hawaii — Freshman Terrence Jones dominated inside on his way to 29 points and 13 rebounds, and No. 8 Kentucky held off scrappy Oklahoma 76-64 in the first round of the Maui Invitational on Monday.
The 1993 Maui champions, Kentucky (3-0) and its fabulous freshman looked dominant at times, racing out to big leads on a couple of occasions. The Wildcats also were careless at times, nearly blowing all of an 18-point lead as Oklahoma (3-1) fought its way back.
Kentucky finally pulled away over the final 2 minutes, going up 70-62 with just over a minute left when Jones blocked a 3-point attempt by Cade Davis and scored on a breakaway dunk.
Jones also blocked four shots and had three assists, while Brandon Knight chipped in 13 points for Kentucky, which moves on to face the winner between No. 17 Washington and Virginia in Tuesday's semifinals.
Davis finished with 23 points and Andrew Fitzgerald had 14 for the Sooners.
Oklahoma is in the midst of a rebuilding project that started with a 13-18 season in 2009-10 that including nine straight losses to end it. The Sooners are young — seven of their eight top scorers are underclassmen — but did manage to open the season with wins over Coppin State, North Carolina Central and Texas Southern.
Of course, those teams aren't quite on the same level as Kentucky, where national titles are the only goal.
The Wildcats lost five first-round NBA draft picks, but simply reloaded with a team Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun joked could give the Boston Celtics a run for their money. Kentucky routed East Tennessee State in its opener and scored the first 15 points on the way to a 31-point win over Portland last week.
The Wildcats didn't do that to Oklahoma, but it was close.
Playing in a high school-sized gym
Jones had a school debut-record 25 points in his first collegiate game and was dominant from the opening tip against the Sooners, scoring right-handed, left-handed, whichever way he wanted. The 6-foot-8 freshman overpowered Oklahoma inside, hitting his first three shots while Kentucky hit eight of nine to build an 18-6 lead in the first 4½ minutes.
Oklahoma wouldn't let the Wildcats run away with it just yet, keeping it under double digits for a while behind Fitzgerald's 10 points.
It didn't last long.
Wearing the Sooners down with their depth and quickness, Kentucky started to pull away late in the first half, building a 42-28 lead behind Jones' 12 points and eight rebounds, and Lambs' 10 points.
Jones had a good start to the second half, too, scoring on a baseline dunk after Kentucky grabbed a missed free throw, then sashaying around Nick Thompson for a that-was-sure-easy scoop shot that put the Wildcats up 52-39.
Oklahoma fought its way back, though, pulling within 68-62 on a 3-pointer by Davis with just over 2 minutes left, but couldn't get any closer.