NASHVILLE — After cramps limited freshman star Julius Randle again Saturday, Kentucky Coach John Calipari acknowledged that stress and anxiety might be a factor.
Earlier this season, former UK star Tony Delk said he believed that the pressures of being a lead player for a highly regarded team and the prospect of entering the upcoming NBA Draft caused him to repeatedly cramp as a senior.
Cramps limited Randle to 21 minutes against Louisville on Dec. 28. When asked if another episode of cramps might be caused by stress, Calipari said, "It could be. I don't know.
"All I told him is if I don't see you running right, I'm playing Alex (Poythress). Either run or you're coming out."
Calipari noted that Randle faces an unusual physical toll in games, too.
"You have to understand, he's in a dogfight," Calipari said in his post-game news conference. "I think he is the only college player when he catches the ball, he's got three guys on him. ... He's not just running up and down the court. He's, like, in a football game."
Randle, no lightweight at 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds, must exert himself physically in games.
"There's some anxiety," Calipari said. "That could play into it. But he's doing fine."
Ever the coach who wants more and more, Calipari said he'd like to see Randle dunk on more shots around the basket. In one memorable play against Vandy, Randle grabbed an offensive rebound in traffic, then fired a bullet pass post-to-post that Poythress could not handle.
"I wanted him to dunk a couple balls," Calipari said. "But it's hard to dunk when guys are all over you. Body to body. It's hard."
Although UK had only two transition points (thanks to Willie Cauley-Stein's steal and driving dunk), Calipari lauded point guard Andrew Harrison for looking to exploit any fast-break opportunities.
"Andrew is finally getting it," Calipari said. "... What he did is what I've been asking him to do. Get rid of the ball. Don't be a ball stopper. No one in the country wants to play with a ball stopper. They don't. If you have a play to make, make it. If not, get rid of it. He did that today."
Calipari said twin brother Aaron Harrison held the ball too long at times.
"He was the ball stopper today," the UK coach said. "Andrew was not. (He) threw it ahead (and) made the quick play."
Calipari likened Andrew Harrison to one of his point guards at Memphis, Tyreke Evans. Both had to change their games to better use their natural speed.
"Both had habits you had to crack," Calipari said. "Both of them had the mentality of how to play the game that was kind of opposite to what it needed to be."
Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings lauded Willie Cauley-Stein, who led UK with 15 points. He also tied Aaron Harrison and Randle for a team high of two steals.
"Sometimes you watch film and there's a guy that stands out to you and you really like how he plays," Stallings said. "I really like what you see from him on tape. He just plays hard. He's a guy you don't have to run any plays for. He's still going to give you a great stat line and great production."
Vandy guard Kyle Fuller noticed the many UK fans in attendance.
"One time I looked up and I saw nothing but blue," he said. "I told the team, we better start swimming. We're not going to drown today."
Fuller said he enjoyed playing in front of so many UK fans.
"And not hearing a dang thing from them," he said. "But, obviously, they got the last laugh."
Kentucky called a timeout with 17.3 seconds left after Aaron Harrison threw a wayward lob for Poythress. With UK holding a 71-62 lead, Harrison bypassed at least two better options: Go directly along the baseline to the basket and score or dribble away from the basket in order to run time off the clock.
Calipari had a preference.
"Shoot the layup," he said. "Always take the points.
"But in AAU ball, you make that pass."
Harrison hasn't shaken himself totally free of AAU habits.
"That's why I called timeout," Calipari said of watching Harrison's pass go astray. "Are you out of your mind?!"