Technically, Trey Lyles was not Kentucky's sixth man in the 56-46 victory over Col umbia on Wednesday night. But he followed that classic script.
Lyles watched the game's opening minutes, judged how he could make an impact and then provided the necessary pick-me-up.
"Just try to give the team energy," he said. "I saw the guys were kind of down a little bit."
UK Coach John Calipari didn't waste much time getting a makeshift second platoon into the game. Lyles and four other reserves entered the game at the 17:28 mark with Kentucky trailing 7-0.
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There was not an instant change in the game. But Lyles ultimately contributed seven points, 10 rebounds (which tied his season high, set Sunday against Eastern Kentucky) and an intangible not found in the box score.
"I thought Trey was outstanding ... ," Calipari said. "Great motor. Great motor."
Lyles suggested Columbia's patient offense contributed to Kentucky's sluggish start.
"Once guys started hustling and started playing harder on defense ... everything picked up for us," he said.
With Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis sidelined, Derek Willis got a chance. He played nine minutes, scored five points and made one of UK's only two three-point baskets.
Willis, a sophomore, denied being frustrated by not playing more in earlier games (32 minutes in five games).
"I want everybody to do well," he said. "If that means me not playing, then fine."
Point guard Andrew Harrison made just one of 12 shots (0-for-5 from three-point range). On the plus side, he did not commit a turnover in 32 minutes.
"You'll focus on Andrew's one of 12," Calipari told reporters. "What Andrew did today, he kept trying to draw fouls by throwing his body in. I kept telling him, they're not going to call that foul. That was last year. That's what he did.
"Well, he's gotten away from it. Today, he reverted back. They're not calling that a foul. If you go into the guy and throw your arm or shoulder, they're not calling it."
Brother Aaron Harrison suggested Andrew's size works against him on those drives.
"Being as big as he is, it's hard for him to get a foul when he's going to the basket," Aaron said. "They may be fouling, but he's bigger. So it doesn't really look like they're fouling him."
Cal and platoons
Another game. Another variance from strict five-for-five platoons. Another chance for Calipari to promote the platoon system.
In noting UK's sluggish first half, Calipari suggested the platoons helped fix the problem.
"That's what the platoons have done for us," he said. "It hides all this. Because instead of getting seven minutes of that, you get two."
After sitting on the bench, players can return to the game re-energized and refocused.
Status of Ulis, Booker
Calipari was non-committal about whether Ulis and Booker will be able to play against North Carolina on Saturday. Both sat out the Col umbia game because of what UK termed minor injuries.
When asked about their status, Calipari said, "Don't know yet. I hope so. I basically said, if you don't practice (Thursday), you're not playing Saturday. So if they can't practice, then they won't play."
Analyst Sean Farnham, who worked the ESPN2 telecast, noted a Kentucky link to his playing days for UCLA.
Farnham said the first time he played in a first half for the Bruins was against UK in the 1998 San Juan (Puerto Rico) Shootout. He recalled fronting Jamaal Magloire in the low post.
UK won 66-62.
The previous spring, Farnham and UCLA lost 94-68 to Kentucky in an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 game in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Columbia Coach Kyle Smith on his players' attitudes. Ivy Leaguers are "achievement-oriented, in general," he said. "Whatever they do, they want to do well." ... UK Assistant Coach Barry "Slice" Rohrssen on how UK and Ivy League recruiters do their business differently: "We look for different board scores. They're looking for high SATs. As well as that, I'm looking for high rebounding. ...try to recruit the ones that get 15-plus a game."