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Calipari looking to make stick lessons learned against Transy

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John Calipari gives instructions during UK's 76-42 exhibition win over Transylvania. (Chet White, UK Athletics) John Calipari gives instructions during UK's 76-42 exhibition win over Transylvania. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Brian Lane came up with his scouting report in unconventional fashion.

The Transylvania head coach, preparing for his team's exhibition against Kentucky, hooked his computer up to the big screen in the conference room and got ready to study.

It wasn't film of UK's Blue-White Scrimmage that he had queued up. Instead, it was a live stream of a John Calipari press conference.

"When you all were at press conference," Lane told the media assembled for his interviews after UK's 76-42 win over Transy, "I was over in my conference room with my computer and him on the big screen listening to him and he was giving me the scouting report that I knew I was getting ready."

Facing a supremely talented team with size, athleticism and depth, Lane knew his only option was to make life as hard as possible for the Wildcats. The visiting Pioneers did just that in staying within single digits of the nation's preseason No. 1 team for the much of the second half by burying six 3-pointers and playing a compressed zone defense.

As frustrating as it may have been, it was just what Coach Cal knew his team needed.

"Brian did exactly what we wanted Transy to do: played really hard, spread the court, kept coming at us, made 3s, sagged on defense, and were physical," Calipari said.

The game plan is one many UK opponents figure to use the rest of the season. Few teams, if any, will be able to match the Cats player for player, so they will instead try to take Kentucky away from its strengths.

On Friday night, the Cats allowed it to happen. The only reason why was they didn't play with the urgency Calipari expects of them.

"The biggest thing that's learned is energy and effort trumps talent," Calipari said. "It just does. It always has, it always will."

Even the members of UK's nine-member freshman class have been around long enough to see the angry side of Coach Cal, but he was particularly vocal in the halftime locker room.

"He got on us a lot because a lot of people, all of us really, our energy level wasn't up," said Dakari Johnson, who had nine points and eight rebounds in just 17 minutes. "I think at the start of the second half our energy level picked up. We've just got to keep that energy level throughout the whole game."

UK rode that wave of energy to a 23-4 run to open the second half and held Transy to 4-of-24 (16.7 percent) shooting over the final 20 minutes.

"I mean, we just pressured the ball more and we just played harder," said Julius Randle, who tallied a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds on just nine shots. "And when we got the rebound we just pushed it and we were kind of able to break open that lead, but we should have been like that from the beginning of the game."

But even the second half was not without its blips.

After Marcus Lee -- who provided a burst of energy in his nine second-half minutes -- hit a short jumper extend UK's lead to 64-34, Calipari inserted Randle, Johnson, Aaron Harrison, Alex Poythress and James Young. Transylvania promptly scored six unanswered and Calipari called timeout to make a five-for-five substitution to bring back in Lee, Willie Cauley-Stein, Dominique Hawkins, Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson.

In his four years at Kentucky, Calipari hasn't often used line-change-style substitutions, but he's not afraid to do it now that he has the bodies.

"If we get that kind of effort, that's exactly what will happen," Calipari said. "They'll all come out."

Within 35 seconds, Cauley-Stein came up with a steal and passed ahead to Hawkins, who fed Hood for an alley-oop that was the highlight of the evening.

The takeaway is clear: The bench is once again Calipari's ally, and he won't be bashful about using it.

"That's a pretty firm message," Randle said. "It's true because we have so many players that came here to win and if you're not trying to win basketball games and compete and play hard then you don't deserve to be on the court."

Though he may have been among the five players replaced in the aforementioned timeout substitution, Randle doesn't need the bench as a motivation. He delivered a handful of plays that made Calipari's comparison of the freshman forward's motor to that of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist seem not so farfetched.

In fact, he plans to take it upon himself to reinforce what his coach is trying to teach.

"A lot of the stuff I gotta do is by action," Randle said. "I kind of lead by example, but I've gonna have to be more vocal with our guys and just kind of get on guys when they're slacking because we can't afford that. The season's next week, so we can't afford stuff like that."

That's spoken like a player who has completely bought in to what Calipari is saying.

"He's not going to get onto us about something that's unfair to us," Randle said. "Everything he's talking about is fair and he's getting onto us for the right reasons: because he wants the best for us."

The idea is for the Cats to take Randle's lead and flip the old energy-beating-talent adage on its head and combine the two sides of it. That starts with two practices each on Saturday and Sunday before UK's final exhibition on Monday against Montevallo.

"Now, talent that trumps the energy and effort, and they do both, like they come out, then you dominate play," Calipari said.

Randle believes it's just a matter of time.

"It's hard," Randle said. "It's tough. Mentally you gotta fight it, but we're all mentally tough to fight that type of stuff. It's first time we've been asked to play like this. We'll outgrow it and all of us will step up."

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