UK Men's Basketball

Poythress, Lee lead UK past Alabama

John Calipari after win at Alabama

Kentucky coach John Calipari talks to media after his team's 77-61 win at Alabama.
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Kentucky coach John Calipari talks to media after his team's 77-61 win at Alabama.

Kentucky Coach John Calipari summed up Alex Poythress’ performance Saturday with one word:

“Unbelievable.”

Marcus Lee?

“Unbelievable.”

With Poythress and Lee returning to life in, well, unbelievable fashion, a revived Kentucky beat Alabama 77-61.

Poythress scored a career-high 25 points. Lee grabbed 11 rebounds, which was only the third time he’d reached double figures in his three college seasons.

Those performances came four days after the pair were practically invisible, except for fouling, in a dispiriting loss at LSU.

“We had to put that bad taste out of everybody’s mouth,” Poythress said.

The dramatic turnaround, which included a 43-25 domination of the rebounding, gave Kentucky its first victory on an opponent’s court this season and improved UK’s records to 12-3 overall and 2-1 in the Southeastern Conference.

Jamal Murray added 21 points. Isaiah Briscoe, who joined the revival by finding his pull-up jumper, scored 12 points.

Alabama fell to 9-5 overall and 0-2 in the SEC. Retin Obasohan led the Tide with 21 points.

Poythress, who had previously scored 20 or more points against an SEC team only twice, had 17 points in the first half in leading Kentucky to a 38-28 lead at intermission. In only six previous games in his four UK seasons had he scored more than 17 points, four of which came in his first month as a Cat (November, 2012).

“We couldn’t get Poythress under control,” Alabama Coach Avery Johnson said. “He had a terrific game.”

Poythress signaled early that he could have a big game. He scored Kentucky’s first five points.

A new strategy helped Poythress come alive. He and the guards used pick-and-roll action effectively.

Kentucky used the pick-and-roll because of how Alabama defended the maneuver, Calipari said.

“They try to trap you and do stuff,” he said. “We tried to draw them into the trap and play off it.”

Showing a new-found versatility, Poythress drove with purpose, more than once going around Alabama freshman Donta Hall. He also scored twice on put-backs.

Kentucky’s defense reduced Alabama’s offense to repeated attempts to beat the shot clock with desperate throws at the basket. “Very unusual for us,” Johnson said.

The Tide scored only four baskets in the final 11:17 of the half, and that included Obasohan’s three-pointer in the final seconds that set the halftime score.

“For us to be competitive, we’re going to have to … be much, much improved on offense, taking care of the ball,” Johnson said before the game.

Alabama struggled to score much of the game.

Kentucky, which led by 16 in the final minute of the first half, found itself in a game early in the second half. A three-pointer by Obasohan reduced the lead to 42-36 and prompted a Kentucky timeout with 16:43 left.

“For us, we were letting them back in the game,” Poythress said of the conversation in the huddle. “We’re better than this. We can’t give games away. We have to learn how to bury teams.”

After the timeout, Kentucky gave Poythress a shovel. The Cats ran a pick-and-roll with Ulis feeding Poythress, who scored over two defenders. That shot gave the Cats an eight-point lead and enabled Poythress to equal his career-high against an SEC team of 21 points (against Missouri on Feb. 23 of his freshman season).

Offensive rebounding helped Kentucky regain a double-digit lead. The Cats scored six points in an eight-point stretch on second-chance opportunities to assume a 52-42 lead with 12:14 left.

“We have to rebound,” Johnson said before the game. “. . We can’t give teams second shots. That’s a big point of emphasis for us.”

Kentucky equaled its third-largest rebound advantage of the season. Only 31- and 25-rebound edges over NJIT and Eastern Kentucky, respectively, were larger.

Lee led the way. His five offensive rebounds were the most he had grabbed since getting seven against Illinois State on Nov. 30 and a career-high against a SEC team.

“We thought we could get them on the offensive glass,” Calipari said. “Even though we play small, these guys can go after it.”

That Poythress and Lee produced big numbers after combining for four points, six rebounds and 10 fouls at LSU fit a pattern Calipari on Friday had called “now-and-then” production.

That begged a question: Can Poythress and Lee consistently contribute to the cause?

Calipari made no such declaration, saying, “I’m going to let you ask them that.”

That’s a question Poythress and Lee must answer not in a post-game news conference, but on the court.

Jerry Tipton: 859-231-3227, @JerryTipton

No. 9 KENTUCKY 77,

ALABAMA 61

KENTUCKY

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Lee

24

4-5

0-5

11

0

4

8

Ulis

39

2-7

4-6

5

8

2

8

Briscoe

36

6-10

0-2

5

4

1

12

Poythress

34

8-10

9-11

7

0

3

25

Murray

31

7-13

6-6

5

0

3

21

Labissiere

4

0-1

0-0

1

0

3

0

Matthews

3

0-1

0-0

0

0

1

0

Mulder

11

1-4

0-0

4

0

2

3

Floreal

1

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

Willis

17

0-0

0-0

2

0

4

0

Totals

200

28-51

19-30

43

12

23

77

Percentages: FG .549, FT .633. Three-point goals: 2-9, .222 (Mulder 1-2, Murray 1-4, Ulis 0-1, Poythress 0-1, Briscoe 0-1). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked shots: 4 Poythress, Labissiere, Ulis, Lee). Turnovers: 11 (Poythress 4, Lee 2, Mulder, Briscoe, Murray, Ulis). Steals: 2 (Murray, Ulis). Technical fouls: Labissiere.

ALABAMA

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Kessens

7

0-1

0-0

0

0

2

0

Edwards

25

3-9

3-5

3

0

3

11

Coleman

25

1-6

0-0

0

2

3

3

Taylor

20

2-3

0-2

6

0

3

4

Obasohan

36

6-14

6-8

2

1

2

21

Norris

27

3-5

4-4

3

2

2

10

Schaffer

2

1-1

0-0

0

0

0

3

Hale

26

1-9

4-6

2

0

4

6

Austin

15

0-2

0-0

1

0

2

0

Hall

17

1-2

1-2

6

0

3

3

Totals

200

18-52

18-27

25

5

24

61

Percentages: FG .346, FT .667. Three-point goals: 7-24, .292 (Obasohan 3-4, Edwards 2-6, Schaffer 1-1, Coleman 1-4, Norris 0-1, Austin 0-1, Kessens 0-1, Hale 0-6). Team rebounds: 2. Blocked shots: 7 (Taylor 4, Austin, Norris, Kessens). Turnovers: 7 (Edwards 2, Obasohan 2, Austin, Taylor). Steals: 3 (Obasohan, Norris, Hale). Technical fouls: None.

Kentucky

38

39

77

Alabama

28

33

61

A—15,383. Officials—Olandis Poole, Lamar Simpson, Glenn Tuitt.

Next game

Mississippi State at No. 9 Kentucky

7 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN)

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