UK Men's Basketball

Alex Poythress leads Kentucky over Eastern Kentucky 88-67

EKU players after loss to UK

Eastern Kentucky players Javonte Hawkins and Jarelle Reischel talk to media after the Colonels' 88-67 loss to No. 5 Kentucky.
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Eastern Kentucky players Javonte Hawkins and Jarelle Reischel talk to media after the Colonels' 88-67 loss to No. 5 Kentucky.

To the warnings about tugging on Superman’s cape and spitting into the wind, Kentucky added another cautionary note Wednesday: Don’t use the word “soft” in reference to the Cats.

Kentucky sensed that ultimate athletic insult after last week’s loss to UCLA.

“It’s challenging our manhood,” Alex Poythress said after UK beat Eastern Kentucky 88-67. “We had to correct that persona, and just show people we are tough guys. We’re not soft or anything like that.”

Then Poythress added a menacing punctuation, well it was menacing as the soft-spoken, gentlemanly player can muster.

“If you want to call us soft,” he said in a quiet voice, “then come play us.”

Poythress walked the walk before talking the talk. He scored 21 points, one shy of a career high, and equaled a career-high 13 rebounds. He said the inspiration for a third double-double in the last six games – and fifth of his career – was the 10-point loss at UCLA.

“Coming off a loss, we tried to make a statement on this game,” Poythress said.

Kentucky did not administer the kind of feel-good beat-down that might have soothed any hurt feelings. That validated UK Coach John Calipari’s declaration Tuesday that fans – and maybe his players – should not expect a repeat of the heady highs of last season.

“This isn’t last year for me,” Calipari said. “I understand what I had last year. I had a whip.”

As for this season, “it’s going to be really difficult, and it’s going to be a process,” Calipari said.

Neither UK nor EKU shot well from three-point range: a combined nine for 37. That all but dictated a game determined by grit and effort around the basket.

Kentucky delivered, perhaps spurred by the sting of the loss at UCLA, perhaps by Eastern Kentucky’s competitive challenge.

Poythress, a player Calipari has repeatedly said can make a physical difference, did just that.

“He was the difference-maker,” said Eastern Kentucky Coach Dan McHale, a former UK manager. “He’s a pro when he wants to be. When that motor clicks, and he starts playing at the speed he played at tonight, he’s very tough to guard because he’s jumping off trampolines and just finishing in traffic. He’s a special, special player.”

McHale’s praise seemed to carry a hint of a left-handed compliment. When he wants to be sounded like the EKU coach believed Poythress sometimes does not want to be a pro.

If true, Calipari declined to speculate on what moves Poythress into pro-mode. “I don’t know,” the UK coach said. “You can ask him.”

Poythress volleyed nicely. “Ask Cal,” he said with a big smile.

Kentucky imposed its will early. The Cats led by double digits barely three minutes into the game, then used a 12-0 run late in the half and cruised to a 50-36 lead at intermission.

Kentucky pounded the ball inside early and often. UK’s first 14 baskets were layups (seven), dunks (six) or a tip-in (one).

In all, the Cats amassed 34 points from the paint in the first half, which was six more than they scored in last week’s game at UCLA. UK finished with 58 points in the paint, in part a product of a 50-25 rebounding advantage.

“I challenged my guys,” McHale said. “We had to be first to the floor. We had to get 50/50 balls. We had to gang-rebound. We did two of three. We didn’t keep them off the glass. That’s their strength. That’s our weakness.”

Of the size difference, McHale said, “We’re not an overly big team. We’ve got to out-scrap them.”

That didn’t happen in the first half.

Eastern Kentucky was within eight points of Kentucky inside the final six minutes. Then the Cats closed with a 15-2 run.

Lee update

Marcus Lee, who sat out the final 36 minutes at UCLA because of a blow to the head, scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

“I thought Marcus Lee was really good in the second half,” Calipari said. Lee had seven of his rebounds in the second half.

Lee said he got hit in the face while trying to shoot at UCLA. He had a headache and a bloody nose.

Van Florence honored

McHale asked Van Florence, the long-time Man Friday for UK basketball, to accompany him onto the court before the game. McHale, a former UK manager, said he fondly remembered Florence, Bob Wiggins and the late Bill Keightley as influences.

“He’s not doing very well at all,” McHale said of Florence. “He’s very, very sick. So, everyone please keep him in your prayers.”

Remote control

ESPN2 announcers Bob Picozzi and Kara Lawson were not in Rupp Arena. They called the game from a studio in Bristol, Conn.

UK spokesman Eric Lindsey said more than one game this season involving a SEC team will be televised without the announcers present.

Timeout coordinator Doug Hampton relayed information that the announcers could not see on their monitor. Hampton, the father of referees John and Brent Hampton, signals the beginning and ending of TV timeouts from his seat at the scorer’s table.

Jerry Tipton: 859-231-3227, @JerryTipton

No. 5 KENTUCKY 88, EASTERN KENTUCKY 67

EKU

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Mayo

25

4-10

0-0

3

0

1

9

Hawkins

33

9-15

1-3

5

5

3

19

Reischel

29

3-11

5-5

6

1

4

12

Jackson

35

3-8

4-5

2

3

2

10

McGlone

26

2-4

0-0

2

0

2

5

Weaver

4

0-0

0-0

0

0

2

0

King

14

2-4

0-1

4

1

1

4

Matthews

3

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

Babb-

Harrison

10

0-3

0-0

1

1

1

0

Bluford

13

2-8

0-0

1

0

2

6

Powell

6

1-2

0-0

0

0

1

2

Pratt Jr

2

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

Totals

200

26-65

10-14

25

11

19

67

Percentages: FG .400, FT .714. 3-Point Goals: 5-18, .278 (Bluford 2-7, Reischel 1-1, Mayo 1-1, McGlone 1-3, Hawkins 0-3, Babb-Harrison 0-3). Team Rebounds: 1. Blocked Shots: 1 (McGlone). Turnovers: 13 (Hawkins 4, Reischel 4, King 2, Mayo, Pratt Jr., Jackson). Steals: 7 (McGlone 2, Bluford 2, Mayo, King, Reischel). Technical Fouls: Reischel.

KENTUCKY

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Labissiere

25

3-6

4-4

4

2

3

10

Poythress

24

9-12

3-3

13

0

4

21

Ulis

39

3-10

1-2

4

8

0

9

Briscoe

26

5-9

0-3

6

1

4

10

Murray

36

6-15

2-4

7

4

2

16

Lee

25

5-5

1-1

8

0

2

11

Matthews

13

3-4

1-1

2

0

1

7

Hawkins

6

0-0

2-2

2

2

1

2

Willis

6

1-3

0-0

1

1

0

2

Totals

200

35-64

14-20

50

18

17

88

Percentages: FG .547, FT .700. 3-Point Goals: 4-19, .211 (Ulis 2-6, Murray 2-9, Poythress 0-2, Willis 0-2). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 9 (Lee 5, Labissiere 3, Murray). Turnovers: 17 (Lee 4, Murray 4, Labissiere 3, Matthews 2, Ulis 2, Poythress, Briscoe). Steals: 3 (Briscoe 2, Ulis). Technical Fouls: Briscoe.

EKU

36

31

67

Kentucky

50

38

88

A—22,544. Officials—Antinio Petty, Tony Henderson, Mike Roberts.

Next game

Arizona State at Kentucky

Saturday, 3:15 p.m. (ESPN)

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