The Wildcats' freshman forward was suffocated by Michigan State's double-down defense in the first half, leaving the court at halftime with a look of distress after scoring just four points on 1-of-5 shooting and committing four turnovers.
A different Randle emerged from the UK locker room for the second half, though, and almost led the Cats back from a 15-point deficit before ultimately falling 78-74 to the Spartans. A night that had started so poorly for the Dallas native ended with familiar numbers in his stat line: 27 points, 13 rebounds.
"He's a great player with a fast first step," said Michigan State senior center Adreian Payne, who has banged inside with some of the best big men in college basketball the last three years. "People are going to have to double-team him."
Spartans coach Tom Izzo was also thoroughly impressed by the young UK star.
"What I loved about him is he gritted his teeth. He was ornery and nasty, and he wanted to put them on his back," Izzo said. "For a freshman, that speaks volumes. Nobody else did that. He completely did that. You could see it and hear him. You could see it in his face and in his body language. Tough kid."
Randle's valiant effort took almost every ounce of energy he could summon. After the game, he had to leave the interview room prematurely to get treatment for cramps.
Kentucky sophomore forward Alex Poythress said Randle has established himself as the go-to guy on this team, even with all the talented pieces around him.
"He's a great player. When he gets it going we look for him and he just gets it going," Poythress said.
Randle scored nine points during a crucial 13-1 run that brought the Cats within one point with 8:05 left in the game. However, it would not be enough as Michigan State held off the surge to pull out the victory.
With yet another huge night from the phenomenal freshman, Randle now has 72 points and 43 rebounds through three games in a Kentucky uniform. That's the most of any player during the John Calipari era in Lexington.
Still, Calipari said Randle could learn even more from the mistakes he made in the loss.
"Julius had eight turnovers for one reason," the UK boss said. "He held the ball. Then he tried to go against five guys. You can't play basketball that way. The ball moves, and then you attack... But he's a fighter."
Asked what Randle might look like should the Wildcats and Spartans meet again later this season, Izzo drew a few laughs with his response.
"Randle? He doesn't have to get any better. Just stay where he is," Izzo joked.