UK Men's Basketball

Poythress again feasts on Alabama as UK rolls

No one had to tell Alabama that Alex Poythress had feasted on the Tide this season.

“We haven’t been able to guard him all year,” Alabama Coach Avery Johnson said Thursday.

His plan to change that trend? “Keep him in front of us,” Johnson said.

That didn’t work either.

Poythress made a career-high four three-pointers — or two more than he’d made all season –— in leading Kentucky to a 85-59 victory over Alabama Friday night.

Poythress made seven of eight shots and finished with 20 points. In three games against Alabama this season, he made 20 of 24 shots and averaged 19.7 points.

In the first two games against Alabama, Poythress took only one three-point shot. He missed.

“He hurt us on pick-and-rolls the first two games, and we dealt with that,” Johnson said. “When he steps out to the three-point line, we want to contest him. But we don’t expect him to shoot like Jamal Murray.”

Murray, who had made 99 three-pointers coming into the game, made five more and led Kentucky with 23 points. As Johnson suggested, that was expected. So was Murray doing his bow-and-arrow pantomime.

The surprise was Poythress’ threes and, no doubt inspired by the moment, his own bow-and-arrow gesture.

“I was just staring at Jamal,” Poythress said. “He was laughing at me.”

UK made a season-high 13 three-point shots (in 22 attempts). Only three times in John Calipari’s seven seasons as coach have the Cats made more: 15 against East Tennessee State in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, 15 against Georgia on March 1, 2012, and 14 against Hartford on Dec. 29, 2009.

Kentucky, 24-8, advanced to the SEC Tournament semifinals Saturday. UK will play the winner of Friday night’s South Carolina-Georgia game.

Alabama fell to 18-14. Arthur Edwards led Alabama with a career-high 20 points. Retin Obasohan added 18.

With some offensive production from unusual sources, Kentucky led 37-27 at halftime.

Poythress’ shooting showed that Kentucky isn’t solely dependent on Murray and Tyler Ulis, who had 17 points. UK’s two representatives on the all-SEC team scored just two of the Cats’ first 21 points.

“We feel everybody on this team can score … ,” Poythress said. “It’s not just those two. We try to be defined as more than those two.”

Poythress tied his previous career high of two three-point baskets in the first half. The treys were his first since Jan. 30, and matched his total for the season (he had made two of 16 shots from beyond the arc coming into the game).

“That’s where his opportunity was tonight, and he took it,” Derek Willis said of Poythress. “He shot with confidence. Sometimes when he misses, it’s very mechanical looking. It looked smooth.”

Calipari called Poythress’ performance “outstanding.”

“Not just that he made jump shots,” the UK coach said. “He made free throws (two of two). He was scoring around the basket. He rebounded (seven).”

Dominique Hawkins, who had made seven of 24 three-point shots, also hit a trey.

Kentucky needed the production from unusual sources because two fouls helped limit Ulis to one basket in the first half.

Of course, Alabama beat Ole Miss Thursday night in a similar style. Obasohan went scoreless against the Rebels in the first half, yet the Tide got enough points from other players to win.

Alabama needed the same thing against Kentucky, but didn’t get it.

Obasohan missed his only three shots in the first half and scored one point. Foul trouble, a problem against Ole Miss, resurfaced. Obasohan went to the bench with his second foul at the 8:22 mark.

He had to return with 5:39 left in the half to try to stem what became a 19-4 Kentucky run.

Edwards helped keep the Tide in reach with 14 first-half points. That left him three shy of his career high.

But Riley Norris (one point) and Justin Coleman (no points) failed to fill the scoring vacuum like they did against Ole Miss.

The second half was more of the same as Poythress made a career-high third three-pointer with 18:35 left.

Edwards matched his career-high of 17 points with a three-pointer 35 seconds later.

After Alabama reduced the Kentucky lead to 46-37, Ulis beat the shot clock with a three-pointer, his first attempt from beyond the arc. On UK’s next possession, Ulis hit another three, this time in transition. That put the Cats ahead 52-37 and prompted an Alabama timeout with 14:22 left.

Poythress gave the highlight reel people more to ponder. With 8:57 left, he drove by a defender, spun in the lane and dropped in a layup.

About a minute later, Poythress swished a three-pointer from the right corner. That was his fourth trey of the game, which matched his total in the last 34 games he’d played for Kentucky dating back to February of 2014.

“I don’t think he’s a three-point shooter,” Briscoe said of Poythress. “But if they’re going in, keep shooting them.”

No. 16 KENTUCKY 85, ALABAMA 59

ALABAMA

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Norris

30

0-5

2-4

7

1

3

2

Kessens

12

2-3

0-0

3

0

0

4

Edwards

33

7-12

0-0

1

0

3

20

Taylor

15

1-4

0-0

4

0

0

2

Obasohan

26

6-12

5-7

3

2

2

18

Schaffer

2

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

Coleman

21

0-5

0-0

2

1

1

0

Hale

22

3-5

0-0

0

0

1

8

Austin

18

0-2

1-2

1

0

0

1

Clark

2

0-0

0-0

1

0

0

0

Hall

19

0-0

4-6

3

0

4

4

Totals

200

19-48

12-19

27

4

14

59

Percentages: FG .396, FT .632. 3-Point Goals: 9-26, .346 (Edwards 6-10, Hale 2-3, Obasohan 1-3, Austin 0-2, Coleman 0-4, Norris 0-4). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 4 (Hall 2, Obasohan, Norris). Turnovers: 13 (Obasohan 5, Norris 2, Clark, Edwards, Coleman, Hale, Kessens, Taylor). Steals: 2 (Austin, Edwards). Technical Fouls: None.

KENTUCKY

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Labissiere

18

3-6

1-2

5

0

2

7

Ulis

31

5-11

5-5

1

5

2

17

Briscoe

31

1-5

2-5

4

6

1

4

Poythress

29

7-8

2-2

7

0

1

20

Murray

33

8-15

2-2

3

4

2

23

Lee

18

1-1

0-0

5

1

2

2

Matthews

3

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

Mulder

2

0-0

0-0

0

1

0

0

Humphries

1

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

Floreal

1

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

Hawkins

20

3-5

0-0

2

1

3

7

Willis

13

2-4

0-0

1

0

3

5

Totals

200

30-55

12-16

31

18

16

85

Percentages: FG .545, FT .750. 3-Point Goals: 13-22, .591 (Murray 5-9, Poythress 4-5, Ulis 2-2, Hawkins 1-3, Willis 1-3). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 1 (Poythress). Turnovers: 7 (Ulis 2, Lee 2, Murray, Briscoe, Poythress). Steals: 2 (Murray, Humphries). Technical Fouls: None.

Alabama

27

32

59

Kentucky

37

48

85

A—NA. Officials—Tony Greene, Ron Groover, Byron Jarrett.

Saturday

SEC Tournament semifinals

1 p.m.: Texas A&M vs. LSU

About 3:30 p.m.: Kentucky vs. South Carolina-Georgia winner

TV: ESPN

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