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By LARRY VAUGHT
Archie Goodwin knows what it means to Kentucky when freshman teammate Alex Poythress plays well.
“We knew we needed Alex to play well to win,” said Goodwin. “If Alex does not play good, most of the time we don’t win. When he plays to his potential, we can win.”
Maybe Poythress still didn’t play to his full potential, but his career-high 12 rebounds, nine points and two assists in 32 minutes here Saturday helped UK beat No. 11 Florida 61-57. That’s much better than in UK’s loss at Florida when he was 1-for-9 from the field and had five points and four rebounds in a 69-52 loss about a month ago.
“I heard he spoke to the media yesterday and basically said, ‘I haven’t played hard enough all year. I’m going to give everything I can,” said Kentucky coach John Calipari after the game. “There was one spell that he gave up. He’s done that throughout the year. This is the first game he did that. Took him out. His teammates got all over him. And he said, ‘Put me back in.’
“He grew up today because he went back in and finished those last seven minutes and was a beast. First time he’s been able to do that, get by, slumping shoulders, head goes down. Now I got to put him back, he’s got to play again, and he did it today.”
Poythress said he realized it was time for him to do more now.
“It’s just time for me to grow up really,” Poythress said. “Sometimes I have put my head down when I got frustrated. I didn’t do that but once today and then I knew I couldn’t do that. It’s time to play ball.
“It’s never too late. There’s always time to change. Our season’s not over yet, so you just keep on going. There’s always time to change. I just looked myself in the mirror and realized I could’ve been better this whole year, could’ve been better in some areas. It’s time to grow up.”
Florida coach Billy Donovan, who tried to recruit Poythress, thought the freshman made a big impact in the game.
“He stepped up and rebounded the ball well,” Donovan said.
Poythress said he was not worried about potential NCAA Tournament scenarios for Kentucky.
“We’re not worried about the NCAA Tournament right now. Right now, we’re just focused on the SEC Tournament. We have to take it one game at a time and try to get an SEC championship,” Poythress said.