Cats get much needed rebound in EKU game

After a disappointing loss at UCLA by a team that wasn’t playing to its full potential, head coach John Calipari and UK needed a bounce-back game against Eastern Kentucky University on Wednesday night.

And they got one.

Cruising to an 88-67 victory behind 21 points and 13 rebounds from senior Alex Poythress, the Cats did a number of things exceptionally better than they did against UCLA.

UK shot the ball better.

In the first half of Wednesday’s contest, UK scored 42 of its 50 points from the free throw line or inside the paint. The team finished with 58 points in the paint, went 14-of-20 from the charity stripe and shot 55 percent from the field. UCLA allowed the Cats just 28 points in the paint and 38 percent shooting.

UK rebounded the ball better.

Against the Bruins last week, UK was outrebounded 38-37 despite an average of plus-10.4 on the boards prior to the loss. Facing a smaller EKU team both physically and height-wise, the Cats outrebounded the Colonels 50-25 with eighteen of those being offensve.

UK shared the ball better.

UK dished out 13 assists in the first half against EKU, just three fewer than it did the entire game against UCLA. Tyler Ulis finished with eight assists and two turnovers while Isaiah Briscoe finished with six assists and one turnover. And of the Cats’ 35 made shots Wednesday night, 51 percent of them were assisted. UK assisted on just 48 percent of its makes against UCLA.

But Calipari was the first to point out that Wednesday’s win was by no means a complete bounce back for the Cats.

“We’re still a ways away folks,” Calipari said. “I was happy about some of the stuff, but we don’t come up with stops to put people away. It’s been this way all year.”

The shooting woes from behind the arc continued against EKU, as UK shot just 4-of-19 (21 percent). Jamal Murray in particular shot 2-of-9 from three-point range, but was still able to produce 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

The turnover woes also continued. The Cats regressed in this category Wednesday night, turning over the ball 17 times against the Colonels and just eight times against the Bruins.

“I was disappointed in turnovers. We had 17 turnovers,” Calipari said. “Four from Jamal, four from Marcus Lee, three from Skal (Labissiere). I mean, come on. Most of that is just being tough with the ball, making easy plays.”

And though Calipari didn’t see a huge improvement from Labissiere, he was still proud with the way his freshman played.

“I thought Skal made strides,” Calipari said. “He’s not there yet, but he mixed it up. I keep telling him, it has nothing to do with what you do offensively.”

Labissiere finished with 10 points and four rebounds against EKU, which looks great compared to his six-point, one-rebound UCLA game.

But without Poythress’ performance, who knows how well UK, let alone Labissiere, would’ve fared.

“Skal is still learning,” said Poythress. “He’s just a freshman who’s 19 years old. One of us has to step up and I’m glad I can do it today. I’m going to try and bring it out every game.”