Source: USA TODAY
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — That’s the way you set the stage for a meeting of the top two teams in the country. The No. 1-ranked University of Kentucky basketball team blasted Northern Kentucky 93-63 Sunday evening at Rupp Arena and can now turn its attention to Tuesday night’s game against No. 2 Michigan State in Chicago.
The Wildcats (2-0) shot 54.5 percent, grabbed 28 more rebounds than the Norse (0-2) and led by as many as 36 against a team that lost by a single point at Purdue on Friday night..
UK’s prized freshman power forward Julius Randle was again a man-child, recording his second double-double — by the end of the first half — in as many college games.
Randle had 11 points, 10 rebounds (four of them offensive), three assists and a blocked shot in his first 17 minutes. He finished with 22 points and 14 boards. Through two games, he has 45 points and 29 rebounds. That’s more points and more rebounds to start than any of the many freshman stars John Calipari has coached at Kentucky. John Wall previously had the most points (40) through two games and Nerlens Noel and Terrence Jones had the most rebounds (17).
Randle put on a show Sunday. He skied impossibly high for a rebound on one end and finished through contact for a three-point play on the other to make it 20-10 early. He chased down an offensive rebound in the corner, drove baseline and performed a violent chin-up on the rim to make it 27-10.
A 6-foot-9, 250-pound force of nature, Randle did a little of everything. He pinned a shot on the glass. He delivered a deft touch pass to Dakari Johnson for a slam. He corralled another offensive board and hammered the ball back through the rim during a 13-0 UK blitz that buried the Norse with more than eight minutes still remaining in the first half.
What makes Kentucky so scary, why the Wildcats will enter their game against the Spartans as the only team in the country ranked higher, is that Randle is hardly alone. Sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein flirted with a first-half double-double Sunday, too. He had seven points and nine rebounds – five of them offensive – in 12 minutes before the break.
The Cats’ veteran 7-footer scored on three consecutive put-back buckets, one of which was a mighty slam, and helped Kentucky build a 38-15 lead with 4:20 to go before the break. Cauley-Stein finished with seven points and 11 rebounds in just 20 minutes.
Sophomore Alex Poythress was a blur off the bench again — nine points, seven rebounds, two assists in 20 minutes — and rookie point guard Andrew Harrison looked much sharper than in his debut. Harrison, who missed most of the preseason with a bone bruise in his knee, had 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting; his jumper was smooth, two of his three 3-pointers swishing through the net. His twin brother Aaron scored 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
So now the stage is set. It’ll be No. 1 versus No. 2 on Tuesday night in the United Center. For a team full of freshmen, Kentucky looks as ready as it can be.
Kyle Tucker writes for the Louisville Courier-Journal.