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|UK’s Alex Poythress after the Marshall win|
By Keith Taylor, Winchester Sun
Alex Poythress showed flashes of brilliance during Kentucky’s last home contest of the calendar year Saturday at Rupp Arena.
Poythress just missed a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds in an 82-54 rout of Marshall. The freshman forward also had a block and an assist in 21 minutes against the Thundering Herd. His nine boards established a new career high.
“We always bang with each other and we were ready to bang with somebody else,” he said. “It was good and we were ready for it.”
Although Poythress was active on both ends of the court against a physical Marshall squad, he also had bad mental lapses at times, a trait that Calipari frowned upon. Those bad spells came on the defensive end that resulted in unnecessary fouls.
“Alex Poythress did some good things and then he reverted at times,” Calipari said. “He just grabbed a guy on a foul, wanted to stop playing, left his feet three times because he was late getting to the guy. Instead of being ready, you can close with your hands up or you can stand straight up and down (and) be late going to the shooter so you’ve got to leave your feet, which he did three or four times.”
Poythress knows what his coach expects and is willing to eliminate the mental lapses as the season progresses.
“He thinks I played decent in spurts,” he said. “He thinks sometimes that I should be playing better. I see where he is coming from sometimes. Sometimes I do have mental lapses and I’ve just got to decrease those mental lapses and I should be fine.”
However, Poythress is starting to get the message from his coach and credited Calipari’s intense practices during the past two weeks to his improvement. In regard to his mental letdowns, Poythress added that he needs to just play instead of pondering his next move in the post or the next possession.
“I’m thinking more instead of reacting,” he said. “We’re making strides. Everybody is seeing improvement in their game and improvement in their conditioning, also in areas like shooting and rebounding. We’re becoming a better team.”
Eleven games into his collegiate career, Poythress is starting to understand his role on the team and wants to build on his performance against the Thundering Herd.
“I just need to rebound, make plays offensively and defensively and we should be fine,” he said.
Calipari liked the way Marshall tested his squad from a physical standpoint and the way his players, especially Poythress and Noel responded to the challenge.
“We needed (to play) a physical team and a big team,” the Kentucky coach said. “I’m pleased. We’re a long way from home, but it shows that this team – and I keep saying – has more upside than any team in the country.
“The thing I liked about Marshall, they (were very) physical, a bump-and-grind team that we outrebounded and they were big,” he said. “That’s what we needed. We needed a game like this. We needed a team that would play that way.”
“I feel like we needed a physical game, so we can get used to the Southeastern Conference and get ready for the big game next week,” he said. “When we get back we’ll have practice, we’ll have our three practices. We’ll just get ready for them.”
That “big game” will be against instate rival Louisville Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center. Poythress knows a little bit about the Cardinals and thinks the Cats will be prepared for the showdown once they return from the Christmas break.
“It’s just building our confidence,” he said. “We’re trying to get our confidence up so we can get prepared for the battle next week. “I’ve seen a couple games. They’re a good team, very athletic team, well-coached team. They have great guards, they have size and it’ll be a great game.”