Randle dominates as Cats move to 2-0

The sample size may be small, but Julius Randle has occupied some rarefied air in his first two games at the college level.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The sample size may be small, but Julius Randle has occupied some rarefied air in his first two games at the college level.

Kentucky's freshman power forward scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds on Sunday in leading the top-ranked Wildcats to a 93-63 win over Northern Kentucky at Rupp Arena.

Randle, who posted 23 points and 16 rebounds on Friday in his UK debut, became the first freshman since Kansas State's Michael Beasley in 2007 to open his college career with back-to-back 20-10 games.

How good has this start been? Here's how Randle's first two games ranked in comparison to some other notable UK big men from the past:

• Anthony Davis (2011): 37 points, 16 rebounds
• Terrence Jones (2010): 37 points, 17 rebounds
• Jamal Mashburn (1990): 30 points, 11 rebounds
• Sam Bowie (1979): 38 points, 23 rebounds
• Dan Issel (1967 *soph): 33 points, 39 rebounds

"He is just physically so gifted and a special player," said Northern Kentucky head coach Dave Bezold. "He is like all young kids, if he works really, really hard he is going to be special at this level and the next one, too. He is one guy that we really couldn't physically matchup with right now."

Randle's dominant performance helped Kentucky improve to 2-0 on the season with a marquee matchup against No. 2 Michigan State awaiting on Tuesday in the Champions Classic at Chicago's United Center.

"I can't wait," Randle said. "Those are the kind of games you live to play in."

It will mark Kentucky's first game as the No. 1 team against the No. 2 team since the 1966 Final Four matchup with Duke. UK has only played two other such games in its storied history (1951 versus St. John's and 1949 versus Oklahoma A&M).

On three occasions, the Cats have played as the No. 2 team against a No. 1, most recently in the 1996 Final Four against its current coach, John Calipari, during his tenure at UMass. UK also played as No. 2 versus No. 1 in the 1975 Final Four against UCLA and in 1981 against North Carolina.

But first the Cats had to dispatch of a talented Northern Kentucky squad that came within a last-second shot of upsetting Purdue on Friday. The Norsemen's play in a 77-76 loss to the Boilermakers helped focus UK's attention as Randle & Co. jumped out to a 29-10 lead and were never threatened.

Kentucky led 48—22 at halftime as Randle has already posted a double-doble with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore forward Alex Poythress also provided a spark off the bench for the second straight game with seven first-half points.

The lead grew to as many as 36 points in the second half before Calipari emptied his bench.

UK shot 55 percent from the field while holding NKU to 33 percent, including a 9-for-35 effort from beyond the arc.

"They could just stay back, play containment and use their length, and that's what they are really, really good at – switching, containing, and using their length," Bezold said. "When you have a 6-6 or 6-5 point guard, you are going to be able to switch with anybody, and that's really difficult."

The Cats also held an overwhelming 51-23 rebounding advantage, including 11 by Willie Cauley-Stein and seven by Poythress to go along with Randle's boardwork.

"We got better today," Calipari said. "That's all I was worried about."

The UK boss noted he liked how his team shared the basketball and had shots distributed roughly even throughout the lineup. Randle needed only seven shots from the field -- hitting six -- to reach his 22-point line, thanks in part to making 10 of 14 free throw attempts.

Freshman guard Aaron Harrison scored 16 efficient points on only 10 shots from the floor, while twin brother Andrew Harrison followed with 13 on seven attempts. Poythress added nine on 4-of-7 shooting, while Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson each added seven on nine combined attempts.

"That's our team. That's how we play basketball," Calipari said.

NOTES:

• Kentucky featured a starting lineup comprised of Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, James Young, Julius Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein for the second time this season.

• The Wildcats improved to 76-3 under Calipari when holding the opponent to 63 or fewer points.

• Randle was initially credited with 15 rebounds in Friday's game, but was awarded an additional rebound via a stat correction.

• The last UK player to record back-to-back 20-10 games was Patrick Patterson in December of 2008.

Jeff Drummond has covered University of Kentucky sports for newspapers, magazines and online publications since 1988 and for FOX Sports since 2012. A Richmond, Ky., native, he currently resides in Lexington.

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