Goodwin, Poythress go pound-for-pound with Woods’ Eagles



By Les Johns | @KernelJohns

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There have been five-round championship UFC fights less physical than Wednesday night’s 81-70 UK victory over Morehead State.

Sean Woods’ deep and gritty Eagles came in to Rupp Arena and physically dictated the game, knocking the Cats back on their heels looking for answers.

It may have been about as much fun as a root canal, but Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin answered the bell for UK head coach John Calipari — playing through the contact to lead the Cats to victory.

“It was really physical,” freshman forward Poythress said. “They were punching us in the mouth and we were trying to punch them in the mouth. All in all, we won the game so that is all that matters.”

Although Morehead averaged 25 fouls and 22 turnovers forced entering the contest, their physical play still seemed to take the Cats off guard, as they settled for fall-away shots and contested jumpers early, digging a double-digit deficit that concerned the Rupp faithful.

“I think we were prepared, but you don’t know what it’s like until you experience it,” freshman forward Nerlens Noel said. “They hit us, but we definitely just kept fighting back and staying strong and staying in the game.”

Morehead’s physical play and the poor decision making by the Cats led to a 16-0 Eagle run and a 23-12 lead with a little more than six minutes left in the first half.

“The minute a guy took a fade-away, I subbed him out,” Calipari said. “You’re either a man or you’re sitting down, because they’re coming after your face, so go at the rim or sit. If you couldn’t come up with balls in the game, I put somebody else in.”

Despite grabbing a lead before halftime, the Cats fell behind by six just three minutes into the second half.

A despondent Calipari turned to Poythress and Goodwin.

“Alex and Archie had it going, you keep going to them,” Calipari said.

Poythress scored 12 of his 20 points in the second half, muscling his way into the middle of the paint and finishing at the basket despite the contact — sometimes whistled, sometimes not.

“I think I am making strides,” Poythress said. “It’s hard playing for a coach that demands so much, but I just try to continue to try my hardest.”

Freshman guard Goodwin was a whirling dervish, wheeling and dealing his way through traffic en route to a career-high 28 point performance. He was an efficient 8-of-13 from the field, and earned 17 free-throw attempts from the multiple times he was laid on his back from the contact he received while attacking the basket.

“The game was very physical and I played through a lot of contact,” Goodwin said. “It wasn’t something that took me long to adjust to.”

Despite the defensive intensity and despite the hacking, fouling and grabbing, Goodwin showed again that he is virtually unstoppable when he wants to get to the basket.

“I’m quite aware of that, and I try to use it to the best of my ability,” Goodwin said. “I attack and that helps me get other guys open. That plays in to my world.”