Kentucky-Robert Morris notes: 'At the end of the day, I just want to win,' Randle says

jtipton@herald-leader.comNovember 16, 2013 

Wildcats forward Willie Cauley-Stein claimed a rebound with Julius Randle (30) as Kentucky outrebounded Michigan State 44-32. Randle finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds in the loss for Kentucky.

MARK CORNELISON — Herald-Leader Buy Photo

An English proverb came to mind as Julius Randle explained why he carried Kentucky to an improbable and nearly successful comeback against Michigan State Tuesday: Necessity is the mother of invention.

"I just felt it was necessary for me to step up," said Randle, who scored 23 of his 27 points (and grabbed nine of his 13 rebounds) in the second half. "And I feel my team needed my help. Needed a lift. So it was only right for me to do it."

Randle seemed almost dour as he spoke of his personal triumph. CBSSports named him its National Player of the Week.

"I hate to lose," he said. "Whether I had 27 and 13, if I had one point and we won, I would have been happy."

During the first half, Randle made little impact on the game: four points, four rebounds, four turnovers.

"I was just more decisive," he said of the second-half breakout. "In the first half, I was holding the ball too long instead of making quick decisions and quick moves. In the second half, I was more decisive and the game was a lot easier."

Through three games, Randle is averaging more points (24) and rebounds (14.3) than any freshman to play for John Calipari as UK coach. He shrugged.

"It's encouraging," he said almost grudgingly. "But at the end of the day, I just want to win and make my teammates better, as well."

Rematch

It came as no surprise to Robert Morris officials when Calipari called to invite the Colonials to play this season. Director of Athletics Craig Coleman suspected the invite would be coming after Robert Morris beat UK 59-57 in the NIT first round last March.

"We were pretty sure after that game ended that it wasn't going to be the final word," Coleman said. "Boy, if I was them, I'd be inviting us to a rematch.

"And, for us, why not? What do we have to lose?"

Plus, Robert Morris plays such games every season anyway. Later this season, the Colonials play at Oklahoma State and at Alabama. So why not bask in the name recognition that comes from being a Kentucky opponent?

"We're constantly looking for positive recognition and looking to increase our notoriety," Robert Morris Coach Andrew Toole said. "This makes sense because we're going to get to play a national TV game. People will talk of last year's game as they have the last few months. We'll get, hopefully, another bump from this game."

'Tough guys'

Before the game in March, Calipari memorably labeled Robert Morris players as "tough guys from Pittsburgh." He suggested the Colonials play "just as hard, just as physical" this season.

Toole noted that with six newcomers (three freshmen, three junior college transfers), the toughness is not "fully developed yet" this season.

"We're working on how to be tough even when things become a little uncomfortable or there's adversity. ... We're working on that every day."

Kerfuffles

There was a kerfuffle in the blogosphere when ESPN analyst Digger Phelps, one of UK basketball's favorite villains, spoke to Randle after the loss to Michigan State.

Randle tried to douse the Internet static suggesting Phelps taunted UK.

"I heard about that," Randle said. "But, nah, there was no exchange. I mean, he just said if we limit our turnovers and make our free throws, we'll be fine the rest of the season.

"I heard people were trying to make a big deal of it. But it wasn't anything at all."

Randle also dismissed any potential alarm about cramping at times during the second half against Michigan State. He was excused from the post-game press conference in order to get treatment.

Not a recurring problem, he said. "It just happened in that game. I'm fine. Not really a big deal."

Made-for-TV

Why is UK playing Robert Morris on Sunday? Even moreso, why Sunday night?

Answer: Because the sport's TV masters said so.

"Television thing," Toole said. "Sunday or Monday was what they wanted."

Etc.

Karvel Anderson, who missed all five of his shots against UK in March, is Robert Morris' leading scorer (18.3 ppg). Lucky Jones (13.7 ppg) and Mike McFadden (11 ppg) are also averaging double-digit points. ... Gone for Robert Morris are Velton Jones, Russell Johnson and Coron Williams. In their careers, the three combined for 3,748 points and 1,305 rebounds. ... A.D. Craig Coleman declined to reveal the guarantee Robert Morris will receive. The school has a $15 million athletic budget. ... Jon Sciambi and Jimmy Dykes will call the game for ESPN2.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.

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