Freshman Terrence Jones did not practice the day before Kentucky beat Auburn 78-54 Tuesday. Instead, he said, he was "coughing up mucus and blood."
Feeling bad and missing practice left Jones in limbo. "I didn't know how much I would play," he said.
The illness led UK Coach John Calipari to bring Jones off the bench against Auburn and, perhaps, stumble into finding the best substitute in college basketball.
The first change in UK's starting lineup this season produced a freshman scoring record of 35 points for Jones, breaking teammate Doron Lamb's three-week-old mark of 32 against Winthrop.
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Besides equaling a personal best of four three-pointers, Jones shot down the assumption that coming off the bench inspired his performance.
"I just wanted to play more focused coming off a loss," he said. Kentucky lost at Georgia on Saturday, in part, because of a slow start for Jones and his teammates.
This led Calipari to ponder a lineup change that Jones' illness helped make a reality.
"I kind of liked him off the bench," the UK coach said. "Maybe we'll keep him there.
"I kind of liked our start," Calipari added.
UK, which improved to 13-3 overall and 1-1 in the Southeastern Conference, led 13-2 before Jones entered the game at the 15:11 mark.
What Calipari did not like as much was Jones' three-pointers.
"On a couple threes, to be honest, I was sitting on the bench saying, 'We're not winning (future games) with him shooting threes.' He may shoot one, two or three, but that's not why we win. We'll win because he'll rebound and score around the goal. He'll score on drives (and) put-backs.
"If he makes a couple threes, that's OK. If that's what he got from this, we're in trouble. That's fool's gold."
Jones, who scored 22 of his points in the second half, seemed to understand the limited good that comes from a team's most dynamic inside player shooting threes.
"The understanding I've got is shoot when I'm open, but don't settle (for jump shots)," he said. "If I can drive, drive. They want me to be a post presence."
Jones made 11 of 17 shots and four of five three-pointers before leaving the game with 2:17 left.
"He rebounded better," Calipari said of Jones' team-high eight rebounds. "He went after the ball with two hands above the rim."
Calipari's lineup change put Lamb in Jones' place.
If the intent was a faster start, the switch worked. Kentucky smothered Auburn, which came into the game with the worst Ratings Percentage Index (322) of any of UK's remaining opponents. The Tigers made only one of their first nine shots en route to 27.3 percent accuracy in the first half.
Jones had a nice view. He wasn't even the first substitute off the bench. That distinction belonged to Eloy Vargas, who took Josh Harrellson's place with 17:26 left.
After he finally got on the floor, Jones scored five points within the next four minutes, pushing the lead to 24-5 and starting his big night.
"He's physically a man," Auburn Coach Tony Barbee said. "He has the skill-set to match it. We'll all be watching him in the NBA someday."
Until that day comes, Calipari stays committed to pushing Jones to the limit. It's a strategy Barbee endorsed.
"He's too talented to play laid back," said the Auburn coach, who played for Calipari at Massachusetts in the 1990s. "He's got to be physical. If it takes coming off the bench, it worked tonight."
Fans of competitive basketball could have been excused from Rupp Arena.
Not that the game lacked novelties.
For perhaps the first time all season, Harrellson posted up for a basket. He took the feed and scored over Rob Chubb with 7:23 left in the first half.
Auburn surpassed the six points it scored in the first half against Louisiana State last weekend when freshman Josh Langford drove the baseline for a score with 10:16 left. That made it 24-7 Kentucky.
Losing by a lot or by a whole lot, Barbee promised, his team would "fight" and "claw" to the end. Barbee noted the "nasty, mean, competitive streak" he shared with Calipari.
That kind of intensity flared in the final two minutes of the half. After securing a rebound, Jones found himself double-teamed and on the floor trying to keep the ball from Auburn's clutches. Jones relaxed as the referees called a foul on Allen Payne, who led the Tigers with 15 points.
As he began to rise, Jones found himself being walked over by Payne, who stuck a knee into the UK player's head.
Jones got the last laugh, hitting a three-pointer at the buzzer to set UK's 41-21 halftime lead.