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Teague takeover: Freshman dominates in third-round win

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Marquis Teague had 24 points and seven assists against just two turnovers against Iowa State. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Marquis Teague had 24 points and seven assists against just two turnovers against Iowa State. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
LOUISVILLE - Playing point guard on a team full of future lottery picks, there isn't a role Marquis Teague hasn't been asked to fill this season.

At times, he's been solely focused on facilitating. Others, he's been a scorer first and foremost. There have even been games in which Teague retreated into the background on offense only to thrive as - in John Calipari's words - a "pitbull" on defense.

As Kentucky defeated Iowa State 87-71 to advance to the Wildcats' third consecutive Sweet 16, Teague didn't limit himself to just one area.

"This one was my best overall game," Teague said. "I was able to score points for myself, but also get my teammates involved. I feel like I played a good floor game tonight and just helped my team win."

Teague led all scorers with a career-high 24 points. He knocked down 10 of his 14 shots, the most field goals he's attempted in his 36-game collegiate career. Although he carried more of the scoring load for the Wildcats than he has all season, he did it while still effectively directing a UK attack that scored more points than it had in any game since December. The freshman had seven assists against just two turnovers.

"I feel like he's gotten better every game, especially at being a floor general," senior guard Darius Miller said. "He's really ran our team. There might be stuff that everybody else doesn't see that we do, whether it's him talking, getting us into spots, just the way that he gets everybody involved. He's a great point guard and he does a great job of running the team when we're on the court."

Continuing Kentucky's postseason trend of picking up the pace and exploiting open-floor opportunities, the top-seeded Wildcats (34-2) outscored the Cyclones (23-11) in transition 11-2.

"I thought Teague was the difference maker with his ability to get through us in transition," Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg said. "That really hurt us."

Not to be lost in Teague's offensive brilliance was the role Teague played in holding Iowa State to a season low in made 3-point field goals. Opting to leave Terrence Jones in one-on-one situations with star forward Royce White, the onus was on Teague and company to hang with the Cyclones' shooters.

"It was pretty much me one on one and let him do whatever he wants to do, just don't leave shooters and let him do any passes out for 3s and just stay out with high hands," Jones said. "I think we did a good job on that."

Teague drew the primary assignment of chasing Scott Christopherson, who was shooting better than 46 percent from long range coming into Saturday's game.

"We knew he was one of their main shooters," Teague said. "He knocked down a lot of big shots against UConn, so I just wanted to make it as hard on him as possible, just chase him off screens and fight over the top and just contest all his shots with high hands as much as possible."

Mission accomplished.

The senior guard drained half of Iowa State's six 3s in a first-round win over Connecticut, but he managed to hit just 1 of 4 from 3 with Teague tirelessly hounding him. As a team, the Cyclones - who were shooting 38 percent from 3 coming into the game - were 3 for 22 from deep.

That defensive effort helped set up a rematch with fourth-seeded Indiana in Atlanta. Christian Watford's game-winning 3 is the lasting image from that game, but Teague also remembers well his scoreless first half against his home-state school.

In that first half, Indiana repeatedly sent double teams at Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones into the post with the player guarding Teague. The scouting report dictated that Teague sprint to the basket upon seeing such double teams, but Teague was unable to capitalize on the ensuing opportunities. Coach Cal has repeatedly called Teague the nation's "best layup shooter," but he certainly didn't look it in Kentucky's first of two losses on the season.

Ironically, Iowa State employed the same strategy, but UK's original scouting report didn't call for Teague to run to the rim again. In perhaps the clearest sign of his evolution from the much-maligned "weak link" on Kentucky's otherwise flawless team into an unquestioned strength of the team, it was Teague that recognized the opportunity.

"He knew they were double-teaming them off of him," Calipari said. "So he said, 'Guys, I'm cutting to the rim. I'm cutting to the rim. My man is the guy that's leaving.' And we all looked, and I said, 'Do you guys understand what he's saying?' And they did."

There were would be no missed layups this time.

On two such occasions when he fed Davis in the post, then cut to the basket, Teague finished authoritatively, first with a dunk late in the first half, then with an "and-one" layup in the middle of a decisive 34-10 run that turned a tie game into a blowout.

For a player who was rated among the top five in his class coming out of high school, seeing a team willfully use the man defending him to double team elsewhere could be perceived as somewhat of a slight.

"The way (to) not feel insulted is have a night like he had," Jones said.

With the way he punished the Cyclones for placing defensive emphasis on his teammates, future opponents are less likely to see Teague as anything less than another star on a team full of them.

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Teague is a cool customer as our floor leader. What an AMAZING freshman. This guy is unbelievable...and unflappable. He deserves the recognition... GO CATS

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  • joedanmedia: Teague is a cool customer as our floor leader. What an AMAZING freshman. This guy is unbelievable...and unflappable. He deserves read more