By KEITH TAYLOR, Winchester Sun
LEXINGTON – Kentucky took a punch, but Alex Poythress helped the Wildcats fight back. The freshman forward scored 20 points, grabbed eight rebounds to help lead the eighth-ranked Wildcats to an 81-70 triumph over a fiesty Morehead State squad Wednesday night at Rupp Arena.
In an unexpected tangle between the two instate schools, the Eagles used a 16-0 scoring spree in the first half to build an 11-point lead before Kentucky rallied back and led 32-31 at the break. Poythress helped spark the comeback in the first frame, scoring eight points, all during an 18-6 Kentucky run to close out the half.
“It was real physical,” Poythress said afterward. “They were (proverbally) punching us in the mouth and we were trying to punch them in the mouth. All in all, we won the game and that’s all that matters.”
And it was another lesson on the court four games into the season. Poythress said the the physical contest will prove to be a beneficial experience.
“It helps us in the long run to play teams who try to be physical with us,” he said. “We just have to get used to it and make adjustments to it. We expect everything to be thrown at us because (other teams) are going to try things throw us off our game, but we just have to slow it down and play (our game).”
Poythress wasn’t surprised by Morehead’s physical mentality and added that Kentucky coach John Calipari stressed the importance of being prepared for the Eagles’ aggressive style on both ends of the court prior to the contest.
“He is teaching us that all teams are going to try to be pysical with us and throw us off of our game,” he said. “We tried to match it a little bit. Teams that try to be rough with us, we’ve just got to be physical with them when they get physical with us. You can’t let them jam us in the post and push us around under the basket. We’ve got to be the ones pushing them and stuff like that.”
By the end of the contest, Poythress had cramps after being bumped around in the post. It ws nothing unsusual for the Kentucky forward.
“I’m always sore after games,” he said. “I always try to play hard.”
Because of their agressiveness, the Eagles were whistled for 32 fouls, compared to 12 for the Wildcats. Poythress took advantage of his chances at the free-throw line, connected on all eight of his attempts from the charity stripe. Poythress said the team wasn’t intimidated by the frequent fouls by the Eagles.
“We’ve just got to learn that we can’t rely on refs to make plays and stuff like that,” he said. “We’ve got to make shots and score the ball in the hole. We’ve got to play defense, not matter how rough it is out there.”
Poythress got some help from Archie Goodwin, with the two players combining for 48 points, with Goodwin netting 28 of those, including 16 in the final half.
“We just had to pick it up,” Poythress said. “Nobody likes to lose and losing leaves a bad taste in your mouth. We just tried to keep our team up so we could win.”
Calipari said Goodwin and Poythress were “tremendous.”
“I played Archie and Alex too many minutes, and you won’t believe this but I wanted to win,” the Kentucky coach said afterward. “I didn’t want to lose the game, and those two had a will to win. Their will to win was unbelievable.”
And it was Poythress who played a big role in helping the Cats avoid the potential upset.