John Calipari has called Trey Lyles the X-factor for Kentucky ever since he fully regained his health in late February. But this Kentucky team is like Noah’s Ark — there are at least two of everything — and there are two X-factors. If Trey Lyles is the X-factor of the White Platoon, then Devin Booker is the X-factor of the Blue Platoon. When both are on, the Cats are unbeatable.
Both players have gone through slumps. Lyles, who was sidelined for three straight games with an undisclosed illness, didn’t get going again until his fifth game back in action, an 18-point performance against Mississippi State which was followed with another 18 points versus Arkansas.
Booker, we hope, just came out of a slump of his own Thursday night against West Virginia. In Booker’s previous seven games, he had scored in double figures just once. He had combined for just 11 points in his last three games. In the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, Booker was 0-for-7 from 3-point range.
In Thursday’s rout, both Lyles and Booker were on top of their games. The result? A 39-point win over the Mountaineers, tied for the largest win ever in the Sweet 16.
Lyles sparked the Cats early, scoring nine points in a 30-9 run to start the game. He finished with a team-high 14 points and also grabbed seven rebounds. Booker snapped his skid from behind the ark with two 3’s and a total of 12 points.
When either is playing at their best, it can be demoralizing for opponents. Kentucky’s guards and big men are overwhelming strengths, but who has a small forward who can match up with Lyles? When Booker comes off the bench and is nailing 3’s, forget about it. When these two are on, you can bet on a long day for the opposition.