Lyles a matchup problem for Bearcats
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Trey Lyles has a habit of mugging for the camera, sticking his tongue out or cocking an eyebrow as he walks by.
But against Cincinnati, Lyles wore his game face. The freshman forward finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds, his second career double-double.
"I keep talking about Trey Lyles," said UK coach John Calipari. "We're training him as a three, but he's a four. He can step out and shoot, he can make free throws, he's good with the ball, but he's 6-10. So when we put him next to the basket, I thought he was really good."
Lyles did half of his damage in the first half. On back-to-back offensive possessions, Lyles backed down a lone defender into the lane and finished at the rim. The second trip, he spun, elevated and threw a shot through the basket.
Saturday was just the latest example of the matchup problem Lyles' presents opponents.
"As you can see he's pretty hard to stop on the block," Andrew Harrison said. "We got him at the three, so it's really hard for them to guard him at three. People at the three are my size."
Lyles didn't back down from physical play, either. After being fouled on a rebound, Lyles took exception to being grabbed after the whistle by Cincinnati's Octavius Ellis, slapping Ellis' hands away. When Aaron Harrison was called for a technical shortly after, Lyles said it helped spark the team.
"It just got us amped up," Lyles said. "Defensively, we locked down. Offensively, we scored off off our defensive stops, and that helped us out a lot."
Lyles found himself in one-on-one situations on defense. Cincinnati's post players would back Lyles down deep into the lane, but Lyles refused to surrender easy baskets.
"Just try to alter their shot," Lyles said. "Bigger guys, you just try to jump, alter it. Having Karl and Willie as weakside defenders, that challenges them a little bit, too."
Lyles finished with two blocks in the game.
Five of Lyles' game-high 11 rebounds came on the offensive glass, attributing for nearly half of Kentucky's 12 total offensive rebounds in the game. Andrew Harrison said Lyles' ability to battle for missed shots is often overlooked.
"He's just a tough guy," Harrison said. "Grabs rebounds. That's probably the most underrated part of his game, his toughness and rebounding and stuff."
Karl-Anthony Towns called Lyles an "absolute stud" after Lyles more than held his own against a physical Cincinnati team. Lyles said he and his teammates know to expect more of the same next week.
"That's what every team is planning to do against us," Lyles said. "So we just went out there and matched their intensity and their physicalness."