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Notes: Randle regains form in tourney debut

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Julius Randle had 19 points and 15 rebounds in UK's 56-49 win over Kansas State. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Julius Randle had 19 points and 15 rebounds in UK's 56-49 win over Kansas State. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
ST. LOUIS -- Last weekend presented a dilemma for Julius Randle.

His team played its best basketball of the season in coming a basket shy of winning the Southeastern Conference Tournament, but UK's star freshman -- by his own description -- "couldn't throw a rock in the ocean."

One on hand, Randle wanted to help his team carry forward the momentum it had built. On the other, he wanted to move on from his individual struggles.

He accomplished both in making his NCAA Tournament debut on Friday night.

"I just left the SEC Tournament behind me," Randle said.

Randle returned to his dominant form in Kentucky's 56-49 second-round win over Kansas State. Overcoming the physical challenge Randle knew the ninth-seeded Wildcats (20-13) would present, Randle posted 19 points and 15 rebounds.

Randle had his 21st double-double of the season, giving him sole possession of the school record for such performances by a freshman as Kentucky (25-10) set up a matchup with top-seeded and unbeaten Wichita State that is already being hyped as one of the most compelling round-of-32 games in tournament history.

With Randle looking more like the player who won SEC Freshman of the Year honors than the one who missed more shots in the paint than he would care to count last week, UK has a much better shot at scoring the upset.

Randle credits his reemergence to his coach and his point guard.

"Coach (John Calipari) did a great job of taking things off my shoulders, told me not to worry about offense, let Andrew create for me," Randle said. "And Andrew made the game a lot easier for me and I was able to get the ball in spots where it was a lot easier for me to score."

Andrew Harrison delivered three of his five assists to Randle, helping him shoot 7 of 12 from the field after Randle made just 9 of 29 shots in three SEC Tournament games.
 
But even as he struggled from the field in Atlanta, Randle never abandoned his tireless work on the glass. It should come as no surprise he rebounded again against an outsized Kansas State team.

With Randle grabbing 12 defensive rebounds and three offensive, the Cats turned the edge they had on paper into an actual one on the glass. UK outrebounded Kansas State 40-28, creating extra possessions when points were at a premium.

Randle was largely responsible, gobbling up nearly 40 percent of UK's total rebounds in 35 minutes of playing time.

"That's always what you expect out of Julius," Alex Poythress said. "He's a great player, a monster on the boards. He's a beast out there. It's what we expect from him every day."

Andrew Harrison day to day with elbow injury


With uncertain play in the final minutes, UK created nervous moments for the thousands of fans who made the trek to St. Louis by allowing Kansas State to trim a 13-point lead with 52 seconds left to six at the 25-second mark.

During the stretch, Andrew Harrison was on the bench after sustaining an injury to his right elbow committing a foul going for a strip on close friend Wesley Iwundu.

"It's sore, but I'll be all right," Andrew Harrison said with an ice bag wraped around his elbow.

Andrew Harrison told reporters postgame that he underwent an X-ray, but he didn't believe the injury was anything more than a hyperextension. In fact, the freshman point guard felt good enough to return to the floor after Kansas State cut UK's lead to six.

However, he narrowly avoided adding to his career-high turnover total of six when Randle pounced on a ball Andrew Harrison had lost.

"I felt like I could have helped my team in that point," Andrew Harrison said. "I tried to get in and do what I could do. It just didn't work."

Andrew Harrison's status is officially listed as day-to-day by UK, though he gave a different impression when asked whether there was a chance he may miss Sunday's game.

"I'll get another arm or something," Andrew Harrison said. "I'll be alright."

Punch-back Cats

After Coach Cal has talked all season about his team needing to learn to respond to adversity, the Cats seem to have gotten the gotten the message.

For the fourth game in a row, UK responded to an opponent's run with a burst of its own.

After UK built a 12-point lead late in the first half, Kansas State scored nine straight over a 2:37 stretch that spanned halftime to cut it to three. A little less than five minutes later, a Shane Southwell 3-pointer made it 35-33 with 15:06.

In response, UK went on a 7-0 spurt to regain control. From then on, Kentucky would lead by no fewer than six points.
 

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