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December 24, 2012The ups and downs continue for Alex Poythress.
The freshman forward had nine points on 3-of-5 shooting with nine rebounds in Kentucky's 82-54 win over Marshall.
He even flashed a smile or two.
He was also on the bench for most of the first half with foul trouble because of poor defense, and he ended up fouling out in 21 minutes.
"Look, Alex Poythress did some good things and then he reverted at times," coach John Calipari said. "He just grabbed a guy on a foul, wanted to stop playing, left his feet three times because he was late getting to the guy."
That inconsistency is holding Kentucky back from reaching its ceiling.
When a reporter asked if UK's potential is rooted in Ryan Harrow and his progress, Calipari shook his head.
"What about Alex Poythress?" Calipari said. "Come on. Play the whole game the way you're playing in spurts. Just do it. There's no excuse why you stop on plays."
"I see where he's coming from," Poythress said when relayed Calipari's message. "Sometimes I do have mental lapses."
Poythress said those mental lapses occur when he's "thinking more instead of reacting."
It was just the third time he scored in single digits, but he tied his season-high in rebounds (he also had nine against Long Island).
"Think about some of the other teams we played where he was going against a 6-2, 6-3 guy," Calipari said, "and he couldn't do what he did today."
Poythress said he knows he can be more consistent. He knows there are times where he seemingly disappears on the court. He's working on fixing it.
"I just got to figure it out sooner or later," Poythress said.
Be like Nerlens
Earlier this season, Calipari urged his players to follow Nerlens Noel's lead in playing with energy. They haven't done it consistently, but Calipari's starting to see more effort from his Cats - something he's seen from Noel all season.
"I thought Nerlens played well in the first half, and he talked the whole game," Calipari said after the Marshall game. "We need that energy."
And consequently, the team looks like it is having more fun.
On one first-half play, Noel stole the ball, drove the length of the floor, took a foul and finished at the rim for an and-one. His teammates swarmed him in celebration.
"Did you see some emotion out there?" Calipari said. "Wasn't it great when Nerlens stole the ball and they all huddled? You're like, 'Geez, I haven't seen that all year.' We're starting to get into each other now versus ourselves and it's nice to see."
Earlier in the season Calipari called Noel a high-energy level player and not a skilled player, and while Noel continues to struggle scoring, he's making his presence felt in other ways.
In Saturday's win against Marshall Noel finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and two steals, recording his first double-double of the season.
"Coach wanted us to show emotion and Nelens really brought intensity," forward Kyle Wiltjer said. "It boosted our team and helped us play great defense."
Perhaps the play of the game came after a Kentucky turnover. Marshall appeared to have a wide-open layup, but Noel chased down the ball and pinned the layup against the backboard. Ryan Harrow then soared in and came down with a rebound in traffic.
That's the way Calipari wants his kids to play.
"You have to be in a dogfight every minute or sit down, let someone else play," Calipari said.
If you look at Archie Goodwin's point total from the Marshall game you would think he was his normal prolific scoring self, but when you read the box score, you see another poor offensive performance.
Goodwin scored 18 points against the Thundering Herd, despite shooting a season-low 4-of-17 from the field. He also had four turnovers.
Calipari was pleased with how his team handled Marshall but said if it wasn't for little mistakes the game could have been over much earlier.
"We missed five layups," Calipari said. "Archie missed four layups, one breakaway."
Calipari sees something wrong with Goodwin's mechanics, but said he'll work with the freshman to get it straightened out.
"I think he's flipping (his layups)," Calipari said. "Rod Strickland thinks he's looking down, not seeing the basket and looking up at the last moment to shoot it.
"I don't know what it is, I'll watch the tape and see if I can figure it out."
Goodwin's missed layups didn't cost UK Saturday but Calipari said that won't be the case against tougher opponents.
"You can't miss layups," Calipari said. "Bad enough missing open shots, but missing layups, c'mon, you're not going to win."
Have a blue Christmas
The Cats have headed home, and won't be returning to Lexington until Dec. 26.
As the players celebrate the Holidays with their families, Calipari wrapped up his news conference after the Marshall game by wishing a Merry Christmas to reporters in attendance and to fans listening.
"Hug your kids," Calipari said. "We know what just went on (with a school shooting) up in Connecticut. Hug your kids. Hug your wife. Hug your spouse. If you get a chance to reach out to someone else, even if they don't know who you are or what you're doing, I tell you, do that."
Calipari said that Kentucky has tried to instill in its players the importance of giving, and he's proud to see his former players absorb that message.
"I love the fact they told me Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist) gave out thousands of backpacks in Charlotte," Calipari said. "That's what we want these kids to be about. We want them to attain their dreams and fame and fortune but we want to look back and see what they're doing with it."