Julius Randle was back to his old self in Fayetteville against Arkansas on Jan. 14. Kentucky came up on the wrong end of the 87-85 score but Randle jumped solidly back into the double-double column with 20 points and 14 boards.
Prior to this one, his last double-double had come against Belmont on Dec. 21, 2013.
He showed no sign of the cramping issues that had plagued him the last few games. He played hard against the Razorbacks (32 minutes) and even did the point forward thing on multiple occasions in helping UK break Arkansas’ pressure.
So the cramps weren’t cramping his game, and that’s a good thing. However, his defense at times was. As John Calipari so vividly illustrated during one timeout, Randle failed to have high hands at times throughout the game. Cal was just reiterating what former analyst and current Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson has always said, “hand down, man down”.
Speaking of defense, when the Tennessee Volunteers (11-5, 2-1 SEC) come into Rupp Arena on Jan. 18 Randle will be defended by post players that are as big or bigger than he is. This hasn’t happened often. Mississippi State’s Gavin Ware (6’9″ 268) and North Carolina’s duo of Kennedy Meeks (6’9″ 290) and Joel James (6’10” 280) have been the only three thus far.
The Vols will bring some bulk of their own into Lexington. Jarnell Stokes (6’8″ 250) is right there with Randle and Jeronne Maymon (6’7″ 265) is a little bigger. Rawane Ndiaye (6’10” 275) is on the roster as well. As we all remember, Stokes made his college hoops debut against the Cats back in 2012 and played an impressively solid game.
Cuonzo Martin is a man-to-man coach. With the Vols size, will he take a chance on letting Maymon or Stokes guard Randle straight up? Will UT’s perimeter guys drop down and help? Will Julius get the Vols’bigs in foul trouble if they don’t?
There are lots of ways this can play out.
If Randle steps back and faces up he has the advantage in quickness and explosiveness over either Stokes or Maymon. If he drives hard to his right and then spins back to his left he will continue to be susceptible to lots of turnovers from guys collapsing on him from the wings.
He’s much like a baseball player who bursts on the scene and tears up Major League pitching. When pitchers realize he has trouble hitting the curve ball, that’s all he sees until he proves he’s able to hit it. It is then up to him to adjust to the adjustments that have been made toward him. It’s a constant chess match.
Randle will learn that. Smaller doses of the spin move will work better for now as he mixes in other facets of his game. If he starts to do damage facing up it will create more space for him to set up shop down low. Kicking it out to open shooters will also pay dividends for him down the road as well.
How do you think UT will guard Julius tomorrow?
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