In the midst of a rare three-game losing streak, Morris has provided an inside presence that the team has desperately needed all season. His return is one positive that Kentucky coach Tubby Smith can dwell on despite the recent negativity surrounding the program.
Morris, playing his second game since returning from a 14-game suspension, scored 19 points and missed just five shots on 12 attempts in a 68-64 loss to Alabama.
The sophomore center made all five of his free throw attempts and grabbed six rebounds. The Cats' versatile big man added a pair of blocks. "I thought he did a good job offensively," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "We would like to see him get the ball a little bit more." Overall, Morris scored all but seven of Kentucky's points in the paint. In the first half, Morris tallied 13 of his 14 points inside the box.
"Randolph Morris was a factor from the tip," Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said afterward. "You could tell from the first minute that he wanted to make a difference, and he did. He causes you problems while he's on the floor, and you have to pay attention to him a lot more when he is on the court."
Despite the Cats' recent struggles, Gottfried said Kentucky will find its stride once it gets used to having Morris back in the lineup. "He's going to make a difference for Kentucky, there's no question in my mind, they're a different basketball team (with him in the lineup)," he said. "It's hard to put a guy in there without having some growing pains. They may be experiencing some uncertainty now, but as time goes (on), I just think he's going to be a guy who is going to make a difference." One of the growing pains for Morris is being more cautious and aware underneath. Morris played with four fouls down the stretch in the loss to the Crimson Tide.
"I was playing not to foul and it took away some of my momentum," Morris said. "It took away some of the aggression I was playing with early." Morris said he's happy to be back, but wasn't anticipating the team's surprising 0-2 start in the Southeastern Conference.
"I was thinking I would come out, and we would be a contender," he said. "It's not (all) me, though, it's a team thing." Despite the slow start, Morris said he's not worried.
"Once we start playing well, we'll be successful in the SEC," he said.