And that means Morris needs to be in the game and not sitting on the bench. It means Morris has to learn to stay out of foul trouble. It means that coach Tubby Smith needs to pick his time strategically to roll the dice and play the big fella even when he is in foul trouble. And it also means, quite candidly that coach Smith needs to move away from his make-shift starting lineup and play the people that produce. And Morris is one of those players.
Without Morris at the opening tip, the Cats fell behind 5-0 in the blink of an eye. And at the beginning of the second half, with the Cats down just one point, I have to feel that it was not a coincidence that the lion's share of the 13-4 Gator run in the opening minutes happened while Morris was cooling his heels in the bench.
Morris played just five minutes in the first half, coming off the bench with the Cats down by five. He was back on the bench having picked up the second whistle with 13:48 remaining and UK down by two. With Morris in the game, Kentucky outscored the Gators 7-4. With Morris back on the bench Florida rebuilt its lead to seven over the next six minutes.
The bigger question may be why coach Smith did not play Morris more than 14 minutes in the second half, including the opening of the second half. With Morris in the lineup, he attracted two and sometimes three Florida Gators every time a Kentucky player so much as glanced in his general direction. He was effective with the ball, either getting the shot, getting fouled or drawing defenders away from players like Joe Crawford. I am shocked Morris sat on the bench at all in the second half.
Coach Tubby Smith uses conventional coaching wisdom to protect his players from fouling out. A player picks up two fouls in the first half, he sits the remainder of the half. If he picks up a third in the second half, it pine-riding time. And the strategy worked – sort of. Morris never picked up a fourth foul. The Cats also lost by 15.
Randolph Morris is an effective post player. Every team in the SEC knows it and shows it by double teaming him almost every game. But he needs to learn some lessons. He needs to stay out of foul trouble and then he needs to learn how to play with foul problems when they occur. He'll never learn the latter by polishing the bench with the seat of his pants.
So I leave it to you with this question: on Sunday would Kentucky have been better off with Morris playing 29 minutes, before fouling out? Or by playing him the way he was played? You decide.