TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — The week didn’t start off well for Alex Poythress or his teammates.
He was held to four points in the Wildcats’ 85-67 loss at LSU on Tuesday night, despite playing 26 minutes. That bad outing didn’t seem to affect his confidence on Saturday when he scored a career-high 25 points and No. 9 Kentucky beat Alabama 77-61 on the road.
Poythress also had seven rebounds and the Wildcats (12-3, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) bounced back to avoid losing back-to-back conference games for the first time since March 1, 2014.
“You just have to get that bad taste out of everybody’s mouth when you have a difficult game,” Poythress said.
After the game Kentucky coach John Calipari said he challenged his team to put the LSU loss in the past. He said his team would have lost again if it played the same way it did Tuesday night.
“If you win on the road, especially against a team that’s been playing like this team has been playing, it’s a great win,” Calipari said. “I told (Alabama coach Avery Johnson) after, ‘Look Avery, that’s as good as we play.’”
The Wildcats held a 16-point lead with just over a minute remaining in the first half, but Alabama (9-5, 0-2) went on an 18-6 run for the next 6 minutes, spanning halftime, to come within four points.
Poythress said the team huddled up and talked about the need to focus when it got close. He said the team knew it was better than they were playing at that point.
“We can’t give games away like this,” Poythress said. “We have to learn how to bury a team and just consistently, just step on their throat.”
The Wildcats scored a quick six points in the next 2 minutes and mostly held a double-digit lead the rest of the game.
Jamal Murray had 21 points and five rebounds and Isaiah Briscoe scored 12 points and also grabbed five rebounds for the Wildcats.
“It’s nice that Isaiah will make the shot,” Calipari said. “He’s capable of doing it. It makes us a different team.”
Retin Obasohan led Alabama with 21 points. Arthur Edwards had 11 points and Riley Norris had 10.
Calipari said he thought the offensive glass was an area his team could beat Alabama and he was right. The Wildcats grabbed 14 offensive rebounds to Alabama’s eight, and the Wildcats outrebounded the Crimson Tide 43-25 overall.
Poythress and Murray had Kentucky’s first 27 points over the first 16 minutes, but then Tyler Ulis added a pair of baskets for a 13-point lead. After that, the pair slowed, only combining for 19 points the remainder of the game.
Alabama set a season low with seven turnovers and outshot Kentucky percentage wise from behind the arc and at the free-throw line, but the Wildcats shot 28 for 51 (55 percent) from the field.
Kentucky forward Marcus Lee finished 0-5 from the free-throw line and took some of the responsibility for the close call after the game. If Lee had made two of his free throws he would have finished with a double-double with 11 total rebounds.
“I felt like I was not helping my team out as much throughout the game,” Lee said. “I figured I had to pick it up for my team and those rebounds just came and I tried to get them.”
Kentucky: Murray has scored at least 20 points in four games this season. … Kentucky starts conference play with a 2-1 record in the SEC for the fourth time in the last six years.
Alabama: Obasohan scored at least 21 points for the third straight game, and he’s now scored at least 20 points in five games this season. … The Crimson Tide are 0-2 in SEC play for the first time since 2007 when they dropped the first four games in conference play.
Kentucky: Hosts Mississippi State on Tuesday night.
Alabama: Hosts No. 22 South Carolina on Wednesday night.