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Poythress gets message, scores career high 25 points in UK’s 77-61 win over Alabama

By Keith Taylor
KyForward senior sports writer

Alex Poythress got the message loud and clear and delivered a career performance to lead No. 9 Kentucky to a 77-61 win over Alabama Saturday.

The Kentucky senior had just four points in the Wildcats’ 85-67 loss at LSU earlier this week, but scored 25 points and grabbed seven rebounds against the Crimson Tide as Kentucky picked up its first road victory in three tries this season.

 Alex Poythress scored 25 points in UK's win at Alabama (UK athletics photo)

Alex Poythress scored 25 points in UK’s win at Alabama Saturday (UK athletics photo)

Poythress, who scored the first five points of the game, said the loss to LSU gave the team motivation and added the Wildcats (12-3, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) couldn’t go down in defeat for a second straight time.

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

BOXSCORE: Kentucky 77, Alabama 61

Marcus Lee teamed with Poythress to give the Wildcats a potent 1-2 punch underneath. Lee just missed a double-double with eight points and 11 rebounds. Led by Lee and Poythress, Kentucky outrebounded the hosts, 43-25.

“Unbelievable (just) unbelievable,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “I told Marcus if he had made some free throws, that’s who he is. You can’t 0-for-6 from the line and play basketball. Not winning basketball, you just can’t do it. They rebounded, defended, they talked better. Alex finished around the goal, made his free throws.”

Overall, Calipari was pleased with the way his team responded from the loss to the Tigers.

“I’ve got a pretty smart team who can make adjustments and tell them,” he said. “They can understand what I’m saying. Look, anytime in any league you win on the road, especially against a team that has been playing like this team has been playing, it’s a great win.”

Murray and Poythress set the tone early, scoring Kentucky’s first 27 points. Murray paved the way with 14, while Poythress chipped in with 13 as the Wildcats built a double-digit lead in the first half.

Poythress and Murray made eight of their first 13 field goals, while the remainder of the team was 0-for-10 in the first 16 minutes.

Tyler Ulis ended the Poythress-Murray scoring spree with a jumper with 3:52 remaining in the first half.

Poythress finished with 17 points in the opening half. Murray followed with 14 for the Wildcats, who led 38-28 at the half.

Murray followed Poythress with 21 points and Isaiah Briscoe added 10, all coming in the second half.

“I thought Jamal (Murray) played winning basketball more,” Calipari said. “He still has a way to go. And it’s nice that when Isaiah (Briscoe) will make it a shot with the elbow and do those things because he’s capable of doing it, it makes us a different team.”

Kentucky made nine of its last 10 field goals down the stretch to fend off Alabama, which fell to 9-5 and 0-2.


* Briscoe reached double figures for the first time in four games. He scored 10 in an 88-67 win over Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 9.

* Kentucky shot 55 percent from the field, its second-best output of the season.

* Ulis had eight points, eight assists and five rebounds and became the first player with at least four assists in eight consecutive games since Marquis Teague in 2011-12.

* For the third straight game, Kentucky’s starting lineup featured Ulis, Poythress, Lee, Murray and Briscoe.

Game tracker: Mississippi State at Kentucky, 7 p.m., Tuesday. TV/Radio: ESPN, 98.1 FM WBUL.

Keith Taylor is a columnist and senior sports writer who covers University of Kentucky athletics for KyForward.com

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