UK-Robert Morris basketball notes: Wildcats start five freshmen for the first time

jtipton@herald-leader.comNovember 17, 2013 

Kentucky's 87-49 victory over Robert Morris Sunday night included a historical footnote.

For the first time, UK started five freshmen. Marcus Lee replaced Willie Cauley-Stein in the lineup that included fellow freshmen Julius Randle, the Harrison twins and James Young.

Robert Morris started three seniors, a junior and a sophomore. Yet, the supposed parity created by mid-major teams having greater experience failed to materialize.

Robert Morris Coach Andrew Toole saw UK's five freshman starters as a sign of the times in college basketball.

"If I had five freshmen that good, I'd start five freshmen as well," he said. "Every coach in the country is at a point where if guys are ready to compete, they're on the floor. We're (simply) figuring out who can produce and who can follow a game plan."

UK Coach John Calipari said he decided to start Lee in place of sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein during the shootaround workout earlier in the day. Perhaps tongue in cheek, he said he told Cauley-Stein that he (Calipari) wanted to win the opening tap.

Lee did that. But he came out of the game 51 seconds later, when he ran the wrong way on a play the Cats had scripted and rehearsed seven times.

"I did everything the total opposite," Lee said.

On historical pace

Randle posted a double-double for the fourth straight game. That made him one of only five UK players to start a season with that many consecutive double-doubles.

The others are Jim Andrews (seven in 1971-72), Dan Issel (twice beginning seasons with five straight), Cotton Nash (five) and Reggie Hanson (four).

Even while double- and triple-teamed when he got the ball anywhere near the basket, Randle loomed large with 10 points, 15 rebounds, two blocks and two assists.

His 15 rebounds were one shy of a career high. That gave him 10-plus rebounds in each of UK's first four games. He also attained his fourth double-double with a post-up basket set up by a pretty spin with 10:07 left.

"He was better," Calipari said of how Randle handled the defensive attention. "I thought we didn't get him the ball enough. I told him there were opportunities to throw it to the wing and go to the post."

Calipari lamented the times Randle tried to rebound with one hand. "He could have had 20 (rebounds)," the UK coach said.

'Shelter in place'

If necessary, UK and Rupp officials would herd as many people as possible out of the lower bowl and into the hallways under the stands.

People in the upper bowl would be instructed to go to concourses.

Said DeWayne Peevy: "I hope not to benefit from my experience."

Peevy was referring to his position in the SEC office when a tornado hit the Georgia Dome during the 2008 SEC Tournament.

UK officials decide protocol in emergencies during home games. Rupp officials help execute those decisions.

Despite the threatening weather, Rupp Arena seemed almost full. The attendance was announced at 21,600. Going into the game, UK averaged 22,669 in its two earlier home games this season.

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

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