Poythress’ 3-Point Barrage Key in Wildcats’ Rout of Alabama

In order to provide fans with additional coverage for the 2016 postseason, CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com will be sharing stories throughout tournament play to help feed the never-ending appetite the Big Blue Nation has for all things Kentucky basketball.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Dominique Hawkins has played at Kentucky with Alex Poythress for three seasons now, but Friday night at Bridgestone Arena was a different Poythress than he had ever seen.

Poythress was a beast – nothing new there – but the manner in which he was “beasting” the opponent was quite new.

“Alex, I’ve never actually seen him shoot like that since I’ve been at Kentucky,” Hawkins said. “He shot excellent tonight and he played outstanding for us.”

The Clarksville, Tenn., native entered Friday’s Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinal game against Alabama with two made 3-pointers on just 16 attempts. Against the Crimson Tide, Poythress doubled his season-long production with a career-high four treys. Poythress had never even attempted four 3s before in his career.

As a team, Kentucky (24-8) hit a season-high 13 3-pointers en route to rolling over the Crimson Tide for the third time this season, 85-59, and advancing to the SEC Tournament semifinals at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. There, the Cats will face Georgia, which overcame a double-digit deficit in a 65-64 win over South Carolina.

“If we're shooting the ball well,” UK head coach John Calipari said, “we'll be a difficult team for anybody to play.”

Alabama (18-14) is disappointed in the loss, but it has to be ecstatic about not having to face the 6-foot-8 UK senior again.

After scoring 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting and grabbing seven rebounds Friday night, Poythress has now averaged 19.7 points and 5.0 rebounds in three games against Alabama this season, missing just four shots out of 24 field-goal attempts. Two of his three 20-point outings this season have come against Alabama.

“We need to start saying that (we’re playing Alabama every game), definitely, because I don’t what it is but he always plays great against Alabama,” Hawkins said.

“He has been playing good against Alabama, but like I’m saying Alex just gotta play like that every time,” Isaiah Briscoe said. “I don’t know what he did that made him play that way, but if Alex plays like that every game that’ll help us a lot.”

The fact that Poythress went off against Alabama wasn’t the surprise, it’s how he did it that caught everyone off guard.

In the two teams’ first matchup in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Poythress went for a career-high 25 points on 8-of-10 shooting, and grabbed seven rebounds. Then, when the two teams met at Rupp Arena, Poythress returned to the court after missing five games due to a knee injury and scored 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting in just 17 minutes. He attempted just one 3-pointer in both those games combined. Friday he attempted five 3s.

“We’re hoping he doesn’t think he’s a shooter now,” Ulis said. “We need him in the post.”

He did work there too. Poythress was 3 for 3 inside the arc, making post moves, going up strong and finishing through contact. He also pulled down seven boards, including four offensive rebounds, his highest total since grabbing six against Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 9.

“I thought Alex was outstanding, not just that he made jump shots,” Coach Cal said. “He made free throws. He was scoring around the basket. He rebounded.”

The 3-pointers perhaps are a product of his injuries.

Poythress tore the ACL in his left knee in December of his junior season, and then missed five games in February this season with a minor right knee injury. In both instances, Poythress was immobile for a bit, but he was able to work on one part of his game in particular.

“When Alex is hurt all he does is just shoot from the 3-point line because he can’t move when he’s hurt,” Marcus Lee said. “So that’s that product of not being able to do nothing else but just shoot.”

With Kentucky now fully healthy, the Wildcats have strung together arguably their best three-game stretch of the year with nine-, 17- and 26-point victories at Florida, against LSU and versus Alabama, respectively.

If Kentucky could get production from Poythress on Saturday similar to Friday night’s performance, the Wildcats look like they could be one of the most dangerous teams in the NCAA Tournament field.

“I mean, every game I step on the court, I try to have a big game,” Poythress said. “Sometimes it happens. Sometimes it don’t, you know? But everybody was just great offensively. We played a complete game today. We’re just looking to build on it (Saturday).”

Certainly nobody is expecting another 3-point barrage from Poythress again in the semifinals. However, if Poythress does make a 3, his teammates expect improved form in their now-famous bow-and-arrow celebration.

“We need to teach him how to do it right,” Lee said.

“We definitely don’t expect Alex to do something like that,” Hawkins said. “He’s supposed to be the mature person on the team. It’s fun though that he’s doing stuff like that. It brings out the best of Alex.”