By LARRY VAUGHT
5:42 PM EST, March 9, 2013
LEXINGTON — Archie Goodwin knows what it means to Kentucky when teammate Alex Poythress plays well.
“We knew we needed Alex to play well to win,” Goodwin said. “If Alex does not play good, most of the time we don’t win. When he plays to his potential, we can win.”
Maybe Poythress still didn’t play to his full potential, but his career-high 12 rebounds, nine points and two assists in 32 minutes Saturday helped Kentucky¿beat No. 11 Florida 61-57 at Rupp Arena. That’s much better than in the Wildcats’ loss at Florida, when the freshman forward was 1 for 9 from the field and had five points and four rebounds in a 69-52 loss about a month ago.
“I heard he spoke to the media yesterday and basically said, ‘I haven't played hard enough all year. I'm going to give everything I can,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “There was one spell that he gave up. He's done that throughout the year. This is the first game he did that. Took him out. His teammates got all over him. And he said, ‘Put me back in.’
“He grew up today because he went back in and finished those last seven minutes and was a beast. First time he's been able to do that, get by, slumping shoulders, head goes down. Now I got to put him back, he's got to play again, and he did it today.”
Poythress said he realized it was time for him to do more now.
“It’s just time for me to grow up really,” he said. “Sometimes I have put my head down when I¿got frustrated. I didn’t do that but once today and then I knew I couldn’t do that. It’s time to play ball.
“It’s never too late. There’s always time to change. Our season’s not over yet, so you just keep on going. There’s always time to change. I just looked myself in the mirror and realized I could’ve been better this whole year, could’ve been better in some areas. It’s time to grow up.”
Florida coach Billy Donovan, who tried to recruit Poythress, thought the freshman made a big impact in the game.
“He stepped up and rebounded the ball well,” Donovan said.
Poythress said he was not worried about potential NCAA tournament scenarios for Kentucky.
“We’re not worried about the NCAA tournament right now. Right now, we’re just focused on the SEC tournament. We have to take it one game at a time and try to get an SEC championship,” Poythress said.
Crowd support: Calipari called the Rupp Arena crowd “unbelievable” after Kentucky¿held Florida scoreless for the final 7:35. Ironically, he asked UK fans on Twitter to stand up for the final eight minutes of the game to support the team.
“I was home, driving in, thinking, ‘What else can we do? What edge can we get? We're doing two things to the players. Here is how we're going to do it. We have a game plan. What else?’” Calipari said.
“We need the fans to take us over the hump. The last eight minutes, we need you standing to carry us over the finish line. And they did. That building was unbelievable. That was as loud as we've been in four years. The great thing is the crowd knows this team is so young that they really need them.”
Goodwin said the crowd was “great” and definitely helped.
“I thought Missouri was great, but this was unbelievable,” he said. “I hope they all come to Nashville (for the SEC tournament). The fans just wouldn’t let us lose.”
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