Randle's 29 lead Kentucky rally past Belmont, 93-80

mmaloney@herald-leader.comDecember 21, 2013 

So much for getting caught in a "trap" game, looking ahead to next weekend's matchup with archrival Louisville.

Julius Randle scored a career-high 29 points as Kentucky overcame a first-half deficit Saturday and pulled away for a 93-80 victory over Belmont.

"Julius was a beast running. He got up and down the floor," UK Coach John Calipari said. "We put him in different positions. I love that he made a jump shot. We're trying to tell him 'shoot the ball, you're a good shooter.'"

Randle, who also had 10 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season, shot 8-for-10 from the field and 13-for-19 at the free-throw line.

"He's a great free-throw shooter," Calipari said of the 6-foot-9, 250-pounder. "I don't understand what's going on with his free-throw shooting. Probably thinking too much."

Randle's previous high scoring effort was 27 against Michigan State. He has now scored at least 20 points in five games.

Aaron Harrison added 23 points and seven assists for the Cats, while Willie Cauley-Stein had 16 points and seven rebounds.

UK also got instant energy from backup guards Jarrod Polson and Dominique Hawkins, who combined to log 43 minutes.

The 19th-ranked Wildcats shot 55.2 percent (32-for-58) from the floor, the fifth time this season they've crested the 50 percent mark.

UK also outrebounded the Bruins 42-25, including 13-6 on the offensive glass.

The Cats (9-3) are now 36-0 all-time against teams from the Ohio Valley Conference.

Belmont (8-5) lost its third in a row and its fourth in five games.

"The big difference in the game was Julius Randle. ... He made eight shots and scored 29 points," Bruins Coach Rick Byrd said. "I don't know if I can find many games where a guy gets three-and-a-half times the amount of points of shots that he took. We couldn't stop him from making it except by fouling him. He's so strong, our guys fouled him and he doesn't even notice.

"I felt like we did all we could, we just have no bulk inside to match (him) inside. You need bulk and ability to move laterally against a guy who can play like him. Length and size help also. We are 0-for-3 in that category."

All the while Randle's body language said hustle and determination, serving as motivation to his teammates.

"That's a big thing," Randle said. "Coach wants us to bring energy to the team so if we see a guy with his head down, any of us, we're checking ourselves. We're not doing that because bad calls are going to happen, we're going to make bad plays and we're going to make mistakes. But you can't let that affect the team and bring the energy down. You have to continue to have great body language and play hard."

Craig Bradshaw topped Belmont with 22 points, one more than Drew Windler. Evan Bradds chipped in with 12 points.

UK never led until the second half, taking a 50-48 edge when Aaron Harrison hit a driving shot with 16:21 left.

That was part of a 9-2 spree that saw UK's lead grow to 55-50.

Once on top, UK showed no inclination to let this one slip away.

An Aaron Harrison three-pointer pushed the lead to 62-54 with 11:28 left.

Bradshaw matched that with Belmont's eighth three-pointer of the game, but UK scored the next four points to open a 66-57 lead. Aaron Harrison hit a driving flip shot, then converted both halves of a one-and-one.

Belmont whittled the lead to five, 70-65, before UK took off again.

This time it was a 7-0 spree to increase the lead to a dozen, 77-65.

Randle started things with a three-point play.

Andrew Harrison drove through the lane for a two-pointer, and Aaron Harrison hit a pair of free throws.

Belmont never came closer than nine points after that, and UK led by as many as 14.

"We still have things we've got to get better at," Calipari said. "I thought we fought; we battled. But you can tell how young we are.

"When you have a scouting report that said when one (Windler) catches it he must bounce the ball, you watch the game and say, 'Did they even know the kid could shoot?' And then the game gets going and he makes a couple ... but that's the lack of focus for young guys."

Windler got Belmont off to a fast start by knocking down back-to-back threes.

The Bruins finished 11-for-30 from beyond the arc, while UK went 3-for-14.

"With this lineup in particular, we pretty much have to make threes in any game," Byrd said. "We made 15 in that win over (North) Carolina, and 11-for-30 is not a terrible return; 11-for-33 would be one point per possession, which would be pretty good."

The Bruins broke a 12-all tie with a 13-2 run to lead 25-14. Back-to-back threes by Windler, followed by a Reece Chamberlain bomb, got the flurry going. Bradshaw and J.J. Mann capped it with drives to the hoop.

UK slowly cut into the deficit. When Polson hit the Cats' first three-pointer of the game, it cut Belmont's lead to 27-19 and brought the crowd to its feet.

"The crowd always likes when I do well," Polson said. "Having that behind me was a really good feeling. I think it got our team going a little bit, too."

Belmont still led by nine, 41-32, late in the half.

UK roared back with a 9-0 run, kick-started by an Alex Poythress trey.

Randle missed a pair of free throws, but Cauley-Stein scored on a put-back.

A sweet drive-and-dish by Polson left Cauley-Stein free for a slam.

Randle's two free throws with 24.8 seconds left tied the game at 41.

Belmont's two-point lead at intermission came courtesy of two Windler free throws with 1.6 seconds left.

Coming off a loss to North Carolina, Kentucky dug down deep from there.

"Definitely we had a sense of urgency and hopefully (we will) keep that," Cauley-Stein said. "Every game like that, everybody was hyped at the beginning. It was probably a little bit to do with that everyone is going home (for the holidays) after (the game), but that is how it has to be every time."


Saturday

No. 6 Louisville at No. 19 Kentucky

When: 4 p.m. TV: CBS-27

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.

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