Gary B. Graves AP Sports Writer
November 11, 2013
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Most impressive about Julius Randle’s latest double-double was that the Kentucky freshman forward achieved it by halftime.
Yes, the top-ranked Wildcats had it that easy on Sunday against Northern Kentucky.
Randle had 22 points and 14 rebounds to lead a 93-63 blowout of the Norse.
Two days after the 6-foot-9, 250-pound forward debuted with 23 points and was credited on Sunday with 16 rebounds upon review, he had 11 points and 10 rebounds in the first half for the Wildcats (2-0).
Randle added 11 points and four rebounds before heading to the bench after playing 29 productive minutes against the overmatched Norse (0-2) — with room for improvement in his mind.
“I’m still missing some opportunities,” said Randle, who made 10 of 14 free throws. “(There were) a lot of balls I didn’t come up with. I just have to learn from it and improve.”
Guard Aaron Harrison added 16 points for Kentucky while twin brother Andrew had 13. Alex Poythress contributed nine points while 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein added seven points and 11 rebounds.
Needing a good tuneup with Tuesday’s showdown looming against No. 2 Michigan State in Chicago, the Wildcats’ much-heralded freshmen responded by dominating every area. Kentucky shot 30 of 55 from the field (54.5 percent), outrebounded NKU 51-23 and scored 36 points in the paint.
“I thought we played through possessions better,” coach John Calipari said. “I thought we got to the second and third drive for the first time. Again, it’s not their fault because it’s something that we really zeroed in on yesterday…
“Today, we rebounded much better.”
Daniel Camp’s 13 points led Northern Kentucky in the first meeting between the schools located 83 miles apart. Tyler White added 12 points and Todd Johnson had 10 for the Norse.
The Wildcats were seeking a better start than in Friday night’s 89-57, season-opening rout of UNC-Asheville, the first of three games in five days.
Kentucky’s freshmen had a rough first half in that game and led by just 10 points at halftime before taking control offensively with their athleticism that left UNC-Asheville no choice but to foul; Randle had no problem with that, making 11 of 13 from the line en route to 23 points and a double-double.
Calipari took a mostly positive approach considering it was the first game together for his lauded group of rookies, but he noted a lot of blemishes. For example, his team’s lack of defensive effort was something he stressed needed improvement — more against Northern Kentucky before looking ahead to Michigan State.
Calipari couldn’t complain after Kentucky held NKU to 9-of-31 shooting in the first half on Sunday, though much of that had more to do with the Norse’s understandable reluctance to try and drive inside against the bigger Wildcats. That left NKU to try and make things up from beyond the arc, a strategy that yielded just 3-of-18 shooting (16.7 percent) and played right into Kentucky’s hands in numerous ways.
The Wildcats tallied just four fast-break points in the first half but had 16 second-chance points thanks to 12 offensive rebounds. They dominated the boards 29-12 through 20 minutes.
“We pushed the ball hard and Aaron was attacking very well,” Andrew Harrison said. “He got to the line and made some shots. I made some shots. Everybody played good. We were playing together.”
Figure in 5-of-13 shooting from long range (38 percent) and it quickly added to the expected lopsided outcome. Leading 16-10 after Poythress’ 3-pointer, the Wildcats closed the half with a 32-12 run for a 48-22 lead.
Just two nights after losing its opener 77-76 at Purdue in the final seconds, the Norse endured a rude chapter in their second season playing Division I basketball. And that was just the first half.
They finished 21 of 64 from the field (32.8 percent) including 9 of 35 from beyond the arc.
“I may be crazy to say this, but when we had two or three wide-open layups in the first couple of minutes and didn’t make them, I thought that relaxed Kentucky a little bit,” NKU coach Dave Bezold said of his team’s shooting.
“When you don’t make those shots against tremendous teams when you are outsized and really out-talented, it’s really difficult to control tempo and it really allows those guys to be relaxed when they shoot the basketball. … I thought that was the difference in the game.”