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UK gets troublesome Arkansas Tuesday
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Julius Randle has made a minimal scoring contribution in SEC play for Kentucky.
That's because coach John Calipari feels the freshman is getting defensive attention similar to when Shaquille O'Neal played in the conference more than two decades ago.
Randle will look to get untracked Tuesday night for the 13th-ranked Wildcats when they travel to face an Arkansas team that has given them problems in the past.
The 6-foot-9 forward reached double figures in points in his first 13 games before totaling 15 on 6-of-17 shooting in his first two SEC contests.
Calipari has a theory on his leading scorer's dip in production.
"Well, he's played well but he always has three guys guarding him," Calipari said. "I don't know if you were covering Arkansas when LSU had Shaq (O'Neal), where you just - everybody played him. And he's not Shaq, but that's how they're playing him."
One reason teams are swarming Randle is that he's the SEC's best rebounder with 10.9 per game. Randle is part of a formidable frontcourt that includes 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein and has Kentucky (12-3, 2-0) tied for second in the nation with a plus-12.7 rebound margin.
"Julius Randle right now is probably playing as well as anyone in our league and possibly in the country," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. "So we somehow have to contain him and (Cauley-Stein) on the boards."
Kentucky has dropped its last two visits to Bud Walton Arena, falling 73-60 on March 2 last season even though Cauley-Stein was a factor inside with 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.
"They always play well against us," Calipari said. "I mean, they always do. The games that I've coached against Arkansas, they play well."
These are the conference's top scoring teams and top shooting ones. Arkansas (11-4, 0-2) ranks first in those categories at 84.5 points per game with a 47.6 shooting percentage while Kentucky is averaging 80.5 points and shooting 47.5 percent.
The Razorbacks are forcing an SEC-best 18.4 turnovers per game to rank among the nation's leaders, but they are wary of applying pressure against the Wildcats.
"Obviously we like the game to be up and down the floor and I'm sure they would love to play up and down the floor as well, having more weapons," Anderson said. "We've got to certainly limit them in the open floor and see if we can get out in the open floor."
The pressing style helped the Razorbacks foul out Alex Poythress in last season's matchup, with the forward scoring nine points in 17 minutes. Poythress is coming off the bench this season and has made 15 of 23 shots and totaled 35 points during the Wildcats' four-game win streak.
"He's now put himself in a position to be a winning player," Calipari said.
Anderson will count on another strong effort from Coty Clarke, who had 14 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in the last meeting for his first career double-double. His second was a 16-point, 14-rebound effort in Saturday's 84-82 overtime loss to then-No. 10 Florida.
Rashad Madden led Arkansas with a career-high 23 points. He's second in the SEC in 3-point percentage, making 22 of 44 attempts.