HOUSTON - When he's not staring an opponent down or scowling at somebody, Arizona Wildcats sophomore guard Lamont "MoMo" Jones often has a wide grin.
He can't imagine playing basketball any other way.
"It's a fun game," Jones said after UA routed Rice 84-57 Wednesday. "Life's not that serious. You gotta smile. If you're mean all the time or got a mug on your face all the time, I'd question how your life is going."
It's the combination of fun and intensity that is helping the New York native through what he says is a difficult transition to running point for the Cats.
Intense because he has scoring-guard DNA but point-guard responsibilities. Fun because he says he doesn't worry about making the transition at a program known for marquee point guards, and instead can appreciate a game such as Wednesday's as one more step in a progression.
In what was probably his best all-around game this season, Jones had 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting, three assists and four rebounds at Rice. The Wildcats worked well enough on offense that they hit 56.6 percent of their field goals, too.
His performance wasn't perfect - Jones had two turnovers and was called for an intentional foul on a reach - but it was an improvement. Jones entered the game shooting 34.4 percent from the field, making only 1 of 10 three-pointers, while barely breaking even on his assist-turnover ratio (17 assists to 16 turnovers).
"It felt good, tell you that," Jones said. "It's a long season and you go through bumps and bruises. That's what I went through the first couple of games, trying to incorporate everything I do into something coach (Sean) Miller wants. And (against Rice) I was able to put everything together - a couple rebounds, couple assists, couple baskets, defense. It felt good.
"From here on out that's the MoMo you'll see, the MoMo our team needs me to be."
But it won't be the Damon Stoudamire or the Mike Bibby or the Jason Gardner or anyone else from UA's long lineage of standout point guards.
UA's Derrick Williams made that a point, supporting Jones during Wednesday's post-game news conference without being asked about him.
"Everybody has their expectations, but we know what we expect from each other," Williams said. "People look at MoMo from our past point guards like Stoudamire and Bibby, but in all honesty MoMo is just MoMo. He's not going to be them.
"People trying to compare people in the past is not right. MoMo has his game and it fits our system. He's a great point guard and he keeps learning."
Besides, Jones says, the expectations outside the UA locker room aren't what he's paying attention to as much as the inward ones.
If anyone's hard on him the most, it's him. Some of those scowls, in fact, are often directed at himself after mistakes on the court.
"Everybody has their expectations, but that's the outside world's expectations," Jones said. Outside "expectations of me don't matter. The expectations of my team, my coaches, myself (matter). Everybody on the outside world sitting there watching on TV, they can't get in contact with me. So that's their problem, not mine."
Jones' play Wednesday came closer toward meeting the expectations that do matter - those of Miller.
While Miller said UA received a scoring punch at the point with Jones and freshman Jordin Mayes (11 points on 4-for-8 shooting), there were other things he was studying.
"It's not about scoring five field goals," Miller said. "I thought (Jones) ran our team better, and he was very aggressive."
That's exactly the kind of presence Jones is aiming for. Once the shooting guard mentality is out of his system, that is.
"I'm not being asked to score. I'm being asked to distribute the ball more than score," Jones said before Wednesday's game, "and at times it's kind of mind-boggling and it's kind of frustrating because you're so used to scoring. But at the same time it's something I have to do in order to make it to the next level. You gotta do what you gotta do."
• What: Oklahoma at Arizona
• When: 2 p.m. Sunday
• TV: FSAZ
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