BOZICH | Louisville Can't Let Randle Bully Them Again - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Louisville Can't Let Randle Bully Them Again

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What defense will Rick Pitino create to slow Kentucky forward Julius Randle Friday night? What defense will Rick Pitino create to slow Kentucky forward Julius Randle Friday night?

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WDRB) – Here is the list of University of Louisville basketball players who were unable to guard Julius Randle when Kentucky defeated U of L, 73-66, in Rupp Arena three months ago:

Exhibit A: Mangok Mathiang. Randle roared past him for several thunderous baskets while scoring seven of UK's first 14 points. Dribble, dribble. Oh, my.

"We took him lightly and he did what he does best, which is score and try to bully everybody," Mathiang said.

Exhibit B: Stephan Van Treese. Randle scored over him after a James Young steal. The replay is scary.

"We played poorly defensively that game," Van Treese said.

Exhibit C: Luke Hancock. Randle left Hancock in the distance on the perimeter once, too. It was a group issue.

"He's a mismatch problem for any team," Hancock said.

Exhibit D: Chane Behanan. Randle made the former Cardinal look like a former defender even before Behanan left the team.

Exhibit E: Ryan Pitino, Paul Rogers, Tom Jurich and Dr. James Ramsey. I'm just making certain I didn't forget anybody on Rick Pitino's U of L roster. Nobody could guard Randle. He started at a point per minute rate.

In 17 minutes, Randle made seven of eight shots, missing only a three-pointer while scoring 17 points. He grabbed three rebounds. He looked like the best player on the floor – or country.

Is Julius Randle a particularly large match-up issue for an undersized Louisville frontcourt?

"Maybe," UK coach John Calipari said.

"I don't know if I was a mismatch or anything," Randle said. "I was just kind of feeling it."

Now, Chapter Two. Here is the list of Louisville players who could not stop Randle in the second half:

There is no list.

There was no problem stopping Randle. Julius Randle stopped Julius Randle. Powerful and nearly debilitating cramps were the reason.

This is the only box score column where Randle left a mark: Four minutes played. He accomplished nothing. Zip. Nada. Absent.

Randle started the second half. He left with cramps after 2:05. He returned after a break of nearly four minutes. Randle left after another minute. More cramps. He returned less than two minutes later. He departed after 69 ineffective seconds. Still cramping.

That was the end of the rivalry game for Randle. He celebrated Kentucky's victory from the bench. The Wildcats didn't need him in the second half. You can be sure Calipari doesn't want another ziggy from Randle in the second half this time.

The rematch arrives Friday at 9:50 p.m. in the NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional semifinals at Lucas Oil Stadium. If you're searching for a key to the game, this is the perfect place:

What can Louisville do to stop Julius Randle from scoring a point per minute?

"We've made a lot of adjustments in how we're going to guard them," Van Treese said.

"We needed to fix some little things," Mathiang said.  "Help defensively and be alert. If not, we're going to be playing with a bunch of guards."

What can Kentucky do to ensure that Julius Randle is the Wildcats' most dominant player in both halves?

"As far as the cramping thing, I hope that's behind me," Randle said. "I mean, I haven't cramped in a little while, knock on wood."

Understand this: Pitino and his players have watched video of the first Kentucky game at least five or six times this week, Mathiang said. A primary focus has been what the Cardinals can do to stop Randle from flexing his will.

Comparisons between this Louisville team and the one that played in Rupp Arena in  December are risky. Pitino has shuffled his lineup. The Cardinals are playing more match-up zone. Their full-court press has become more effective. Van Treese and Hancock have moved into the starting lineup.

But in the end, one 6-foot-9, 250-pound question looms over this game:

What can Louisville do with Randle? Remember, Randle was also the guy who overwhelmed top-seed Wichita State last Sunday in St. Louis, with four assists in the first half, with nine points and six rebounds in the second half. He does that to people.

Montrezl Harrell would appear to be the most reasonable match-up option, even within a zone. But Pitino cannot risk having Harrell find himself in foul trouble.

What do they do?

"He's a guy we're going to key on and we're going to try to take him out of the game," Hancock said.

What can they do?

"We've worked on a different way to guard him," Van Treese said.

Anything you'd like to share? You can whisper, Stephan.

"This isn't my first rodeo," Van Treese said. "I'm not going to say."

All of college basketball will be watching.

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