Poythress, Lee Deliver Big at Bama

Alex Poythress heard the talk about Kentucky’s big men. He listened as Tyler Ulis said they needed to step up in the wake of a loss at LSU this week.

On Saturday, he responded.

In a big way.

“We just had to get the bad taste out of everybody’s mouth,” Poythress said.

Poythress did as he pleased against Alabama (9-5, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) and in turn gave the No. 9/8 Wildcats (12-3, 2-1 SEC) exactly what they needed, scoring 25 points in a 77-61 victory. He made 8 of 10 from the field and attacked the basket relentlessly, converting 9-of-11 free throws. The total was a career high, exceeding the 22 points Poythress scored in two of his first five college games way back in November 2012.

“Unbelievable,” John Calipari said, appraising Poythress’ performance. “Unbelievable.”

Poythress came flying out of the gate, scoring UK’s first five points and reaching 17 by halftime.

“It helps you a lot, especially when you get a bucket in the first couple of seconds, and then you feed off the other people and start to finish,” Poythress said.

The quick start was no accident.

“We were going to post him up one way or another to start the game and just let these two play,” Calipari said, referencing Poythress and Marcus Lee.

Lee and Poythress played beautifully off one another, particularly when Alabama began to focus its defense on Poythress to stop the pick-and-rolls he and Tyler Ulis were using to devastate the Crimson Tide.

“They were leaving Marcus to go guard Alex, is what they were doing,” Calipari said. “I told (Alabama head coach Avery Johnson) after the game, I got a pretty smart team that you can make adjustments and tell them, they understand what you’re saying.”

Lee took advantage of the real estate afforded him, scoring all eight of his points after halftime to go with his 11 rebounds. He was the key as UK outrebounded Alabama, 43-25, and grabbed 14 offensive rebounds.

“I felt like I wasn’t helping my team out as much as I was throughout the whole game and I had to pick it up and figure something out to help my team,” Lee said. “Those just came and I tried to get them.”

For the game, Lee and Poythress combined for 33 points and 18 rebounds, a far cry from the four points, six rebounds and 10 fouls they had in the LSU game they’d surely rather forget. 

Both outings, though for very different reasons, are proof of how important Lee and Poythress are to UK’s ultimate fate. If they’re not playing the way they’re capable of, the Cats won’t go far. If they do, the sky is the limit.

“Bottom line is, folks, if you don’t have post presence your team’s a fraud,” Calipari said. “Can I tell you that again? If you don’t have post presence, your team’s a fraud. We should have it and there’s been games that we haven’t had it and those games we lost.”

The LSU game, of course, was one of them. The good news is the Cats made that disappointment a memory on Saturday.

“I asked them, ‘How bad did you feel after LSU?’ ” Calipari said. “I mean, that’s how basketball is. It’s like life. You move on. You make up for it the next game and you feel good.”